Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the humility of John the Baptist, the holy servant of God, the Herald of His Messiah, Who came into the world in order to save it and all of mankind. John the Baptist came before Jesus in order to prepare His way, and he baptised many people at the Jordan, calling them to repentance and to turn away from their sinful ways.
And even though many people listened to him and hearkened to his call for repentance, and although many people flocked to him and he was truly famous and respected by many, but in numerous occasions, as what we have also heard in the Gospel today, he denied that he was the Messiah, that is he denied that he was the Saviour that was to come into the world as prophesied.
He humbly revealed that he was merely the servant, the voice calling out in the wilderness to call the people of God to prepare themselves for the coming of the Lord and to prepare them to receive His salvation. He refused the temptation to be a great person himself, the temptation of power and worldly glory, and he preferred to remain faithful to the mission which he had come into this world for.
We can relate this to the first reading which we had today, the Epistle which St. John had written to the faithful to remind them to be true to their faith and reject all the falsehoods and lies, and to reject and resist all the false teachings of the false prophets and the antichrists, whose ways are not of the Lord but of the devil, and whose temptations on the faithful could cause these to lose their track on their way towards salvation and fall into damnation instead.
Just as Adam and Eve, these false prophets and antichrists were tempted by the devil with the false promises and the lies of worldly power and glory, if only that they would abandon their God and disobey Him, following rather the path of their own hearts’ desires and wants. And they succumbed to the temptation and followed the devil in his ways, and then they also preached the same falsehoods to mislead many others from among the faithful.
Throughout the ages, we have encountered many of them, the heretics such as Arius, Nestorius, and many others, including that of Martin Luther, Calvin and Zwingli in the more recent time. These people have turned the hearts of many of the faithful into the wrong paths, because instead of adhering to the teachings of the Lord as what had been kept faithfully by the Apostles and the Church fathers, they allowed their own judgments and ideas to supersede the truth.
And now, let us see the examples of the two very important saints whose feast we celebrate today, namely St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen. Both of these saints were widely honoured, especially in the eastern half of Christendom, where they were credited with the defence of the true faith against the dangerous heresies that threatened to divide and tear apart the Church of God.
St. Basil the Great was the Bishop of Caesarea who lived and worked at about the same time of his contemporary, St. Gregory Nazianzen or St. Gregory of Nazianzus, who was the Archbishop of the new capital city of the Roman Empire, Constantinople. Both of them worked together in the effort to counter the influence and the false teachings of the heretics such as the Arians and the many other sects which taught teachings contrary to the orthodox and true Church teachings.
Many of the faithful were divided against each other, with those who refused to leave behind the truth of God and join the heresies against those who have given themselves up to the false and twisted teachings. It fell to St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory Nazianzen and their fellow elders of the Church as well as the faithful among the laity to resist the advances of those seeking to destroy the Church and its truth.
It was not an easy journey, as many challenges awaited and faced them. All those who are opposed to the two saints made things difficult for them, the priests and bishops aligned with the heretical teachings constantly challenged them and made things difficult for the faithful people of God. Nevertheless, St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen never gave up, and with clarity of Christian teachings and truth in their hands, they worked hard and managed to turn many back to the true path towards the Lord.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we heard the examples of the faithful saints of God, and also that of John the Baptist who faithfully carried out his mission, rejecting the temptation of the evil one and the world, and humbly fulfilling what has been expected of him, let us all also reflect on these and walk in their footsteps, following their examples by doing the same in our own lives.
Let us all reject our human pride and desire for worldly glory, for these are the tools with which the devil will be able to easily manipulate us and tempt us to do what is sinful and wicked. We all have to stay together and to work together to maintain our faith life, and deepen our spiritual connection with the Lord by doing all that God had asked us to do, loving one another and serving each other with love.
Thus, after all that we have done, God Who rewards all who are faithful to Him will bless us and keep us in His grace, and He will not let us to suffer in the hands of the unfaithful, but He shall bless us with ever richer abundance of grace. God bless us all, now and forever. Amen.