Saturday, 31 December 2022 : Seventh Day Within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of Pope St. Silvester I, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, on this very last day of the current Gregorian Solar Calendar of this Year of Our Lord 2022, we are all reminded of the need for each one of us to contemplate and reflect on the year that has just passed us by. And at the same time we should also spend some time to consider our options going forward to the next, new year in 2023. We have to spend some time at the end of this year to see how we can make the next and new year better for all of us, in terms of our lives as Christians and as members of our various, diverse communities and peoples, as well as in terms of our mission and calling to serve the communities we are living in.

In our first reading today, we heard from the words of St. John the Apostle in his Epistle to the faithful people of God in which he spoke of the imminent coming of the end times, and also the rise of the antichrists, who were the false prophets and teachers, that misled the people of God to the wrong paths. Back then, there were quite a few of these false leaders and teachers who distorted the teachings of the Lord and His Church for their own benefits and purposes. Those false leaders endangered the unity of the Church and the faithful, causing schisms and heresies to happen, even in the days of the Apostles as St. John himself experienced. In the next few hundred years, more of those heresies and divisions would appear, as people of God chose to embrace falsehoods and lies instead of the truth of God.

This is when as we heard from our Gospel passage today, by the same St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, we are reminded in the midst of this joyful Christmas season of Who it is that we are celebrating about. St. John reminded all of us that it is the Word of God Himself, the Son of God, Incarnate in the flesh that we are all celebrating for, for His coming into this world, appearing before all of us as the Son of Man, the Saviour of all. By His incarnation in the flesh, and by being born of His mother Mary, He has shown us the love of God made manifest and tangible to us. While once mankind can only see and feel the greatness of God from afar, now through Christ, everything had been made real and approachable to us. Through Christ, we have come into the realisation of God’s love made Man, approachable and touchable to us.

It is this truth which those false leaders and prophets, messengers and heretics all tried to subvert and change for their own selfish purposes and desires. Some of them rejecting the Divinity of Christ while others rejected the Humanity of Christ, and others still reject the figure of Christ altogether and instead conflating the Christian faith with other syncretic pagan practices among others. These were what St. John warned the faithful all about, that they should not succumb to the temptations to sin, or to evil, falsehoods and wickedness in any sorts. St. John told all of us that we have to keep adhering to the truth of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, the manifestation of God’s love Whom we celebrate this Christmas season. As His disciple and follower we have to commit ourselves wholeheartedly to Him.

Today, we celebrate the feast of a saint and servant of God whose life and devotion to God hopefully can become a great source of inspiration to follow, as we embark on our own journey of faith in this life. Pope St. Silvester I was one of the early Church fathers and leaders, who reigned during the moment of great change for the Church and the world. He succeeded Pope St. Miltiades whose reign coincided with the Edict of Milan, the Edict of toleration of all Christians and their faith as proclaimed by the Roman Emperors Constantine the Great and Licinius. That declaration and Edict marked the momentous time when Christians were no longer persecuted for their faith as they had been in the past three centuries, with the latest being the particularly vicious persecution under the Emperor Diocletian and his fellow Emperors.

Pope St. Silvester I succeeded Pope St. Miltiades and would go on to reign for a long over twenty years period, ushering a time of great renewal for the Church. He led the Church through both a turbulent and great period, characterised by great many conversions and growth of the Church, but at the same time also plenty of divisions within the Church. He led the Church through a time of great building of churches and institutions, but also a time when many heresies and divisions arose in the Church, and the faithful became increasingly more and more divided by their different priorities and ideals, and especially back then, the heresy of Arianism and Donatism, and also Gnosticism threatened the unity of the Church. To combat these divisions and restore unity of the Church, Pope St. Silvester I together with his brother bishops and with the support of the Emperor Constantine convened the first ever Ecumenical Council of the Church in Nicaea.

Pope St. Silvester I did not attend the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea himself, but sent his delegation with his full authority to the Council, which condemned the various heresies particularly that of Arianism, and upheld the true Christian faith as preserved and handed down from the days of the Apostles and the beginning of the Church. Eventually, the true Christian faith prevailed and the Church continued to flourish despite the many challenges and trials that it faced, also thanks to the firm and faithful leadership of Pope St. Silvester I, who became a source of inspiration to all the bishops all throughout Christendom and facing all sorts of pressures and hardships. And as we discern the life and works of Pope St. Silvester I, whose Pontificate was at the end and boundary between the old order of persecutions and hardships for the Church and a new beginning and renewal through freedom, we too should reflect upon our past year and what we are going to do this upcoming new year.

May the Lord continue to guide and strengthen us in our journey, and may He continue to help us to persevere through the challenges in life and also help us to direct our path to the right way as we continue to proceed to the new year with new hope and new expectations. Let us all look forward to the new year with hope and strive to be ever better Christians, in the spirit of Pope St. Silvester I, whose life is an inspiration to all of us. May God bless us always in all of our efforts and deeds, for His greater glory, and may He bless our year ahead with His most wonderful blessings and grace. Amen.

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