Friday, 31 December 2021 : 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 on the very last day of the solar year calendar, and being still in the middle of the Christmas season, all of us through the readings of the Sacred Scriptures are reminded to keep our focus on Christ, on God’s truth and love, and not allow ourselves to be distracted and deceived by the many temptations present all around us. As we end our current year and look forward to the beginning of the new year, we have to keep our focus steadily forward, with Christ as our focus and direction, the Star that guides our path ever forward in life.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. John, the Apostle spoke of the dangers of the antichrists, all those who spoke of falsehoods and heretical teachings not in accordance to the truth and the teachings of the Lord. At that time, even that early in the history of the Church, there were already those who sought to divide the Church and mislead its members and adherents, by spreading teachings and thoughts that were contrary to the truth that the Lord has passed down through His Apostles.

Many of those heresies came about because of the power and influence that those heretical teachers and even wayward priests and clergy could attain by spreading their own version of the truth and teachings of God. They were more concerned with their own fame and glory, and the advancement of their selfish, worldly causes and ambitions rather than to proclaim the truth of God. As such, St. John the Apostle, who have worked for a long time and laboured hard among the people of God, showed his concerns on how all these led the people away from God.

What he was mentioning to us is for us to be vigilant as we look forward to the future and guard ourselves against the many possible corruptions from the world. We must not allow ourselves to be easily swayed and instead we have to keep ourselves firmly focused on the Lord, on His truth and love. We have to live our lives with genuine love for the Lord, obeying His will, His Law and commandments. The Lord has given us the opportunities for us to follow Him, and He has revealed to us His message of love, by the coming of His Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour into this world.

That is why today in our Gospel passage we are yet again reminded of the reason of our many celebrations that we have during this season of Christmas. We all celebrate because of the Word of God, the Son, Who chose to become Incarnate in the flesh, so that by the action of the Word made flesh, He might become for all of us, past, present and future, the One to redeem us and save us from our fated destruction because of our many sins. In Christmas all of us have been reminded of this great love of God manifested in the flesh, in Jesus Christ, Our Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today on the last day of this year, let us all take stock and evaluate carefully how our year had been like. Have we spent the time and effort to be faithful to God and also to dedicate ourselves to His works? Have we truly placed Him at the centre of our lives as we should? As we prepare to welcome the new year, we should look back and see in what way we can do better especially as Christians in living our lives ever more sincerely and genuinely in faith. We should be ready to lead a more wholesome Christian life in the year ahead, and we can do so by following the examples of our holy predecessors, the saints, the holy men and women of God.

Today in particular, on this last day of the year, we celebrate the feast of Pope St. Silvester I, also known as Pope St. Sylvester. Pope St. Silvester I was the leader of the Universal Church, as the Pope and Bishop of Rome during the time of new beginnings for the Church. His twenty-one years long pontificate was one of the longest of any Popes, and it ushered in the era of new beginnings for the Christian community and the Church. This is especially considering that his pontificate came right after Pope St. Miltiades, during whose pontificate the Edict of Milan officially tolerating Christianity was declared by the Roman Emperors Constantine and Licinius. This Edict was proclaimed just less than two years before the pontificate of Pope St. Silvester I began.

Pope St. Silvester I and his long pontificate marked the beginning of a new era for the Church and the Christian population throughout the Empire. Of course persecution did not end outright and there remained sporadic persecutions and tensions with the pagans and the authorities, but the end of persecutions opened a lot of opportunities for Christians who have long suffered from various persecutions and opposition from both the Roman government and from the pagan followers. There were a large number of churches and other Christian buildings being built during his pontificate, marking the beginning of a new and brighter future.

However, at the same time, the tensions and divisions that once were not previously apparent or visible began to make themselves apparent as various heretical teachings and thoughts like Arianism and Gnosticism amongst many others began to arise at that time, and in particular Arianism gained so much following and support that with the collaboration of the Roman Emperor, Pope St. Silvester I and many other bishops decided to organise the very first Ecumenical Council of the Church, the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea which formulated the official teachings of the Church and the rejection of heresies, just as St. John had warned against earlier.

The life and works of Pope St. Silvester I should remind all of us, brothers and sisters in Christ, that the future is not necessarily bleak or dark. We all know just how difficult these past two years had been on so many of us, but we must have faith in the Lord that everything will one day be fine again. We have to look forward to a brighter future while at the same time being vigilant against all the evils and wicked influences, all the false paths that can mislead us down the wrong path. The best way for us is to commit ourselves fully to the Lord and entrust ourselves to Him.

Let us all seek the Lord with a new heart and be more committed to Him from now on. May He continue to bless us and guide us, and may He strengthen each and every one of us, so that we will always have hope in Him and as we enter into the new year, may He continue to bless us in each and every good endeavours, and bless our loved ones, families and friends. May God bless us all, and bless our year ahead. Amen.

Friday, 31 December 2021 : Seventh Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of Pope St. Silvester I, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 1 : 1-18

In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God; He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing came to be. Whatever has come to be, found life in Him; life, which for human beings, was also light, light that shines in darkness, light that darkness could not overcome.

A man came, sent by God; his name was John. He came to bear witness, as a witness to introduce the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but a witness to introduce the Light; for the Light was coming into the world, the true Light that enlightens everyone. He was in the world, and through Him the world was made, the very world that did not know Him.

He came to His own, yet His own people did not receive Him; but to all who received Him, He empowers to become children of God, for they believe in His Name. These are born, but not by seed, or carnal desire, nor by the will of man : they are born of God.

And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us; and we have seen His glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father : fullness of truth and loving-kindness. John bore witness to Him openly, saying, “This is the One Who comes after me, but He is already ahead of me, for He was before me.”

From His fullness we have all received, favour upon favour. For God had given us the Law through Moses, but Truth and Loving-kindness came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God-the-only-Son made Him known : the One, Who is in and with the Father.

Friday, 31 December 2021 : Seventh Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of Pope St. Silvester I, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 95 : 1-2, 11-12a, 12b-13

Sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless His Name. Proclaim His salvation day after day.

Let the heavens be glad, the earth rejoice; let the sea and all that fills it resound; let the fields exult and everything in them; let the forest, all the trees, sing for joy. Let them sing before the Lord.

He Who comes to judge the earth. He will rule the world with justice and the peoples with fairness.

Friday, 31 December 2021 : Seventh Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of Pope St. Silvester I, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 2 : 18-21

My dear children, it is the last hour. You were told that an antichrist would come; but several antichrists have already come, by which we know that it is now the last hour.

They went out from us though they did not really belong to us. Had they belonged to us, they would have remained with us. So it became clear that not all of us were really ours. But you have the anointing from the Holy One, so that all of you have true wisdom.

I write to you, not because you lack knowledge of the truth, but because you already know it, and lies have nothing in common with the truth.

Thursday, 30 December 2021 : Sixth Day within Octave of Christmas (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are called to continue to remember that this is still now part of the Christmas season, and all that we have heard today reminded us that God in His ever enduring and supreme love for all of us have given us the perfect gift in Jesus, His most beloved Son, Whom He sent to the world to be part of our lives, to be the Bridge that brought us closer to Him and helped in reuniting and reconciling us to Himself. Too often we have been caught up in our busy life schedules and forgot about all these, ignoring God and His ever generous love.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. John, the Apostle reminded all the faithful to keep in mind their Christian calling, that is to follow the Lord and His path, to love Him more than anything else by their words and deeds, and not to succumb to the temptations of worldliness among other things. St. John reminded us all because it is very easy for us to love the world more than we love God, for the world often offers us easy pleasures and quick satisfaction that can tempt us to desire more of them.

St. John reminded all of us that the Word of God, the Word of Life has come upon us and dwells in our midst. He is the Divine Word Incarnate, the Word of God made flesh, the Son of God born through His mother Mary as the Son of Man, entering into our world and gracing us with His love, the perfect manifestation of God’s Love, made fully tangible and approachable, that all of us may know the truth of God, His love and ever generous compassion towards us. It is all these that we have been celebrating this Christmas season.

It is the same Jesus Christ Whom as a young Infant, was brought to the Temple of Jerusalem, the House of God to be offered to God, as in accordance to the Law of Moses, as we heard in our Gospel passage both today and yesterday. The old prophetess Anna confirmed again what the old man of God Simeon had already spoken regarding the Child Jesus, before His parents, Mary and St. Joseph, who heard how this Child indeed would become the Saviour of all and amaze all by His power and deeds. It is this same Child that would later on grow to become the One to bear the Cross of suffering, dying and offering His own life for our sake.

For Christmas is indeed inseparable from the Passion of the Lord and His Resurrection at Easter. Through Christmas and all that we celebrate, we remember God Who has made Himself tangible to us, and sharing in our human existence, resolving to take upon Himself all of our sufferings, our human sufferings due to our sins, which would not have been possible without the Incarnation, and bore it upon Himself as the worthy offering in atonement for our sins. Through that act of supreme and most selfless love, God had redeemed us and saved us, assuring us who keep our faith in Him, the assurance of eternal life and true joy.

Yet, as mentioned just earlier, it is very easy for us to forget about all these, and forget why we call ourselves as Christians in the first place. In a world filled with a lot of selfishness and various temptations, of pleasures of the flesh, of wealth and glory, of fame and influence, power and others, we often sidelined the Lord and ignored His ever generous love, choosing instead to listen to Satan and all the temptress’ seductions, believing in their lies instead of God’s truth and ever enduring love for us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we continue to celebrate the joy of Christmas, let us always remind ourselves and one another of the reason of our celebrations and rejoicing. Let us not be easily swayed and tempted by the excesses of worldly pleasures and instead seek the true joy and happiness that can be found in God alone. Let us all be good role models to one another and inspire everyone whom we encounter in our daily lives with the light and hope of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In these dark and difficult times, let us bring hope and encouragement to others, especially to those who are suffering and sorrowful without anyone to console or help them.

May the Lord continue to guide us and bless us in our every good works and endeavours, and may He continue to inspire and encourage us to be the bearers of His light and hope in our world today. May our love for the Lord continue to grow and remain strong despite the challenges and trials we may encounter in life. Amen.

Thursday, 30 December 2021 : Sixth Day within Octave of Christmas (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 2 : 36-40

There was also a prophetess named Anna, daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. After leaving her father’s home, she had been seven years with her husband, and since then she had been continually about the Temple, serving God as a widow night and day in fasting and prayer. She was now eighty-four. Coming up at that time, she gave praise to God, and spoke of the Child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.

When the parents had fulfilled all that was required by the law of the Lord, they returned to their town, Nazareth in Galilee. There the Child grew in stature and strength, and was filled with wisdom: the grace of God was upon Him.

Thursday, 30 December 2021 : Sixth Day within Octave of Christmas (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 95 : 7-8a, 8b-9, 10

Give to YHVH, you families of nations, give to YHVH glory and strength. Give to YHVH the glory due His Name.

Bring gifts and enter His courts. Worship YHVH with holy celebrations; stand in awe of Him, all the earth.

Say among the nations, “YHVH reigns!” He will judge the peoples with justice.

Thursday, 30 December 2021 : Sixth Day within Octave of Christmas (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 2 : 12-17

My dear children, I write this to you : you have already received the forgiveness of your sins, through the Name of Jesus. Fathers, I write this to you : you know Him, Who is from the beginning. Young men, I write this to you : you have overcome the evil one. My dear children, I write to you, because you already know the Father.

Fathers, I write to you, because you know Him, Who is from the beginning. Young men, I write to you, because you are strong, and the Word of God lives in you, who have, indeed, overcome the evil one. Do not love the world, or what is in it. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the craving of the flesh, the greed of eyes and people boasting of their superiority – all this, belongs to the world, not to the Father.

The world passes away, with all its craving, but those who do the will of God remain for ever.

Wednesday, 29 December 2021 : Fifth Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of St. Thomas Becket, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, all of us are called to reflect on the Law and commandments of God, on what each and every one of us have received through Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, all the truth and love that He has shown us. We have to live our lives virtuously and commit ourselves wholeheartedly as a holy people that God had called and chosen, and to whom God had sent His own beloved Son, that all of us may be saved through Him.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. John, we heard the the Apostle exhorting the faithful to be genuine in their faith, in how they ought to be following Christ, in all that He had done throughout His life. We are all called to be genuine and authentic witnesses of Christ’s truth and love in our respective communities and societies. Otherwise, we are no better than hypocrites and those who profess to be faithful and yet had no love or true faith in the Lord. This is why all of us are reminded by St. John to practice what we believe in our lives.

St. John especially exhorted all of us to be loving just as the Lord Himself has shown His love to us. We ought to follow Him with all of our strength and might, and do whatever we can to live our lives in accordance to the path that He has shown us. We should be truly genuine in our desire to follow Him and to commit ourselves to His path. We must not only show lip service but instead, obey the Lord’s commandments wholeheartedly, resist the temptations to sin and be ready to lead a good Christian life and be exemplary in that life and faith to our fellow brothers and sisters.

In our Gospel passage today we heard the account of the time when the Lord Jesus was presented at the Temple of God in Jerusalem in accordance to the Law by Mary and St. Joseph. At that time, they were met with the devout man of God named Simeon who was already very old and had been waiting and expecting the coming of the Lord and His salvation for a long time. He has been told that he would live to see the Saviour of the world with his very own eyes, and he did finally see Him as he beheld Jesus that day at the Temple of God.

It was there too that he proclaimed God’s words on the Child Jesus, speaking of the Sign that He has shown the world by His coming and all the wonders that He would do in fulfilling the many prophecies that had been made regarding Him. Simeon also spoke of what Mary herself would experience in the days to come, a premonition of her sorrow at the time of the Crucifixion, when she herself would witness her Son’s agony, suffering and death, and thus having her heart pierced with the greatest of sorrows.

What we have heard in our Gospel passage today is again another example of obedience to God, as the Presentation of the Lord was done in accordance with the Law of God, and marked the moment that the Lord was revealed and committed to the ministry that He had been sent to this world for. He was consecrated to God and marked as the One through Whom all that God had planned for the salvation of mankind would be fulfilled perfectly. It was the dedication of Christ as the future High Priest of all, preceding his role as the One to offer the worthy sacrifice for the atonement of our many sins.

Today, all of us as Christians should remind ourselves to be faithful to God and to dedicate ourselves to Him. And we should also emulate the good examples and inspiration given to us by the great saint whose life and works we celebrate today. St. Thomas Becket, also known as St. Thomas of Canterbury was the renowned Archbishop of Canterbury during the High Medieval era England, in his great passion serving the people of God and in his ministry, in his refusal to let the English king from having his ways in manipulating and controlling the Church, and finally his well-known martyrdom.

St. Thomas Becket was born into a merchant family who rose to become an efficient administrator and later on gained the trust and respect of King Henry II, the King of England. The king made St. Thomas Becket his Chancellor, and entrusted to him the governance of his kingdom. He became a close confidant of the king, and this was one of the main reasons why he was nominated by the king to become the new Archbishop of Canterbury, the most important position in the Church in England and also the leader of the Church and the other bishops in that kingdom.

The king most likely had wanted to bring the Church and its administration, as well as its income and wealth closer to the royal control. However, if he thought that by appointing his close friend, St. Thomas Becket, that he could achieve this, he was totally wrong. For St. Thomas Becket, after he had been formally appointed, ordained and enthroned as the Archbishop of Canterbury, he began to fiercely defend the independence of the Church from the secular control, especially from the king and his nobles. He strongly resisted the king’s efforts to interfere in the affairs of the Church.

The conflict between the king and Archbishop continued to grow such that there had been multiple tensions in which St. Thomas Becket stood his ground firmly against the king and his corrupt nobles’ actions and efforts. St. Thomas Becket even had to endure more than one exile for his dedication, having to flee to mainland Europe due to the threats against him. In the end, the Archbishop remained firmly faithful to the very end, and when the frustrated king spoke in his drunken rambles, some nobles went to St. Thomas Becket to murder him in cold blood, which enraged all of Christendom.

The faith and dedication showed by St. Thomas Becket should be a great inspiration for us to follow, in obeying the Lord and His laws and commandments, and not to fall into the temptations of this world. We have to follow in the footsteps of St. Thomas Becket in remaining virtuous and true to his calling despite the corrupt attitudes of his contemporaries and all those who pressured him and others to disobey the Lord by their own selfish and sinful actions. His courage and devotion to God should be our source of great strength and inspiration.

Let us all turn towards the Lord with renewed faith, vigour and zeal, and may the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us, so that we may always be courageous in living our faith despite the challenges we may encounter in this world. May God bless us all and our every good endeavours for His greater glory. Amen.

Wednesday, 29 December 2021 : Fifth Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of St. Thomas Becket, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 2 : 22-35

When the day came for the purification according to the law of Moses, they brought the Baby up to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord, as it is written in the law of the Lord : Every firstborn male shall be consecrated to God. And they offered a sacrifice, as ordered in the law of the Lord : a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.

There lived in Jerusalem at this time a very upright and devout man named Simeon; the Holy Spirit was in him. He looked forward to the time when the Lord would comfort Israel, and he had been assured, by the Holy Spirit, that he would not die before seeing the Messiah of the Lord. So he was led into the Temple by the Holy Spirit at the time the parents brought the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the Law.

Simeon took the Child in his arms, and blessed God, saying, “Now, o Lord, You can dismiss Your servant in peace, for You have fulfilled Your word and my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You display for all the people to see. Here is the Light You will reveal to the nations, and the glory of Your people Israel.”

His father and mother wondered at what was said about the Child. Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary, His mother, “Know this : your Son is a Sign, a Sign established for the falling and rising of many in Israel, a Sign of contradiction; and a sword will pierce your own soul, so that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.”