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.”

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

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 95 : 1-2a, 2b-3, 5b-6

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. Recall His glory among the nations, tell all the peoples His wonderful deeds.

YHVH is the One Who made the heavens. Splendour and majesty go before Him; power and glory fill His sanctuary.

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

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 2 : 3-11

How can we know that we know Him? If we fulfil His commands. If you say, “I know Him,” but do not fulfil His commands, you are a liar and the truth is not in you. But if you keep His word, God’s love is made complete in you. This is how we know that we are in Him : he who claims to live in Him must live as He lived.

My dear friends, I am not writing you a new commandment, but reminding you of an old one, one you had from the beginning. This old commandment is the word you have heard. But, in a way, I give it as a new commandment that is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and true light already shines.

If you claim to be in the light but hate your brother, you are still in darkness. If you love your brothers and sisters, you remain in the light and nothing in you will make you fall. But if you hate your brother you are in the dark and walk in darkness without knowing where you go, for the darkness has blinded you.

Thursday, 27 May 2021 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine of Canterbury, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are reminded of the most wonderful works of God in our midst, that exist all around us and which He has done for our sake, providing for us and blessing us with many wonderful things, which unfortunately often ignored by many of us. Many among us have not realised just how much God has done for us, and just how wonderfully beloved we have been. We have not opened our eyes and our hearts to recognise God’s love for us.

That is why then in the Gospel reading today we heard about the Lord healing the blind beggar, Bartimaeus, who begged Him to heal him and restore his sight. And despite the ridicule and the efforts of the crowd to silence him, Bartimaeus continued to ask for the Lord, shouting out for Him and calling on Him to show mercy towards Him because he truly believed that the Lord could heal him and make him whole again. And that was how Bartimaeus, the blind beggar was healed and restored his sight, by his great faith in the Lord.

Bartimaeus was blind, and he was unable to see any light, as his eyes had failed him. The Lord opened his eyes again and restored his ability to see the light and all things surrounding him. He sought the Lord for healing, and the Lord healed him. And through what we have heard about Bartimaeus and his healing by the Lord, we are actually reminded to seek God’s healing for our own predicament and illness, that we too may be healed and may be made whole again just as Bartimaeus had been made whole.

Why do we need healing, brothers and sisters in Christ? Some of us may wonder why we need healing or why we have the need to seek the Lord. That is in fact because we are all, even though we may be perfectly good in health and in our physical selves, but we are suffering from sin, afflicted by this disease that is affecting us and will end up destroying us unless we have them resolved by none other than the Lord. The Lord alone has the power to heal us from our sins, as unlike any other ailments of this world, no one can forgive sin but God alone.

Hence, we need to seek the Lord and ask Him for His healing and forgiveness for our sins, so that we may be freed from bondage to those sins and be brought to a new life filled with grace, in the presence of God. We should also realise that we are really fortunate that God Himself always wants us to be reconciled to Him and to be freed from our sins, just as He wanted to heal Bartimaeus and how He recognised the faith that the blind beggar had in Him. Hence, we too need to have that faith in the Lord as well.

Today we are all called as Christians to have genuine faith in the Lord and to devote ourselves, our efforts and attention, our time and our energy to serve the Lord, to walk on His path and to remain true to Him, even when we may encounter trials and challenges, ridicule and sufferings along the way. Just as Bartimaeus was insistent despite being ridiculed and opposed by all those who were around him, we also have to be insistent and committed in our faith, as best as we are able to.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Augustine of Canterbury, a great missionary and servant of God, the first Bishop of Canterbury in England, as he went to that land, reestablishing the Church hierarchy and presence in England after barbarian invasions in the preceding centuries destroyed much of the Church infrastructures and presence established earlier during the Roman times. Pope St. Gregory the Great sent St. Augustine of Canterbury to England with the mission for the conversion of souls, and St. Augustine of Canterbury dedicated himself to his mission.

Through his tireless works, St. Augustine of Canterbury did not just manage to establish a firm foundation of the Church in England, but he also managed to convince even some of the local rulers and kings to convert to the Christian faith. St. Augustine of Canterbury spent a lot of time in patiently reaching out to the pagans and the believers alike, and beginning many other missions that would end up in converting the entirety of England to the faith within a century or so. St. Augustine of Canterbury is therefore remembered for his great contributions and faith, which should become source of inspiration for all of us.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we willing and able to follow the Lord wholeheartedly from now on? Are we able to commit ourselves like St. Augustine of Canterbury and so many other saints and our holy predecessors had done? Let us all seek the Lord with all of our hearts from now on, and be like Bartimaeus in his faith and belief in the Lord’s love and providence. May the Lord be with us all and may He strengthen all of us with faith. Amen.

Thursday, 27 May 2021 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine of Canterbury, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Mark 10 : 46-52

At that time, Jesus and His disciples came to Jericho. As Jesus was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar, Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth passing by, he began to call out, “Son of David, Jesus, have mercy on me!”

Many people scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he shouted all the louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called the blind man, saying, “Take heart! Get up, He is calling you!” He immediately threw aside his cloak, jumped up and went to Jesus.

Then Jesus asked him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” The blind man said, “Master, let me see again!” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way, your faith has made you well.” And, immediately, he could see, and he followed Jesus along the road.

Thursday, 27 May 2021 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine of Canterbury, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Psalm 32 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

Give thanks to Him on the harp and lyre, making melody and chanting praises. Amid loud shouts of joy, sing to Him a new song and play the ten-stringed harp.

For upright is YHVH’s word and worthy of trust is His work. YHVH loves justice and righteousness; the earth is full of His kindness.

The heavens were created by His word, the breath of His mouth formed their starry host. He gathered the waters of the sea into a heap, and stored the deep in cellars.

Let the whole earth fear YHVH; let the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke and so it was, He commanded, and everything stood firm.

Thursday, 27 May 2021 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine of Canterbury, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Sirach 42 : 15-25

Now I shall remind you of the works of the Lord and relate what I have seen. The Lord’s works depend on His word, and creation obeys His will. The sun shines on everything and the work of the Lord is filled with His glory. Not even to His holy ones has the Lord given full knowledge of all His marvellous works. The Lord, Master of the Universe, has ordained that all should stand firm in His glory.

He penetrates both the depth of the abyss and the human heart and knows their secrets. For the Most High has full knowledge and ordains the signs of the heavens. He knows the past and foretells the future and reveals the traces of the world’s mysteries. No thought escapes Him, no word is hidden from Him.

He has ordered the marvellous works of His wisdom, from ever and forever. Nothing can be added, nothing can be taken away and He has no need of counsel. All His works are beautiful, even to the smallest spark of light. All this lives and endures forever : all is useful and obedient to His will. All things are in pairs, one opposite the other, and nothing He makes is in any way deficient. One thing emphasises the excellence of the other; who could ever weary of admiring His glory?

Tuesday, 29 December 2020 : 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, on this day we are called to focus our attention as we progress along the Christmas Octave, to focus on the Light of the world and the Light of our salvation, Jesus Christ. The Lord has come into the world and born to be our Saviour, and His light has restored us and pierced away the darkness and evil surrounding us. Through His Light we have seen the salvation of God, and because of that, we rejoice and are glad.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard about the account of the time when the Lord Jesus was presented at the Temple of God in Jerusalem, as per the Law of God revealed through Moses, which decreed that all the firstborn of Israel ought to be presented and offered to God. And at that moment, there were two people who came to the Lord, both of whom had been waiting for that encounter for a long time.

Simeon, the elder of the people was full of joy to be able to see the Messiah or the Saviour, as the Lord had told him that he would not die and rest before he saw the Messiah with his own eyes. And again, we heard Simeon saying in thanksgiving that because he had seen the Light of the Lord’s salvation, then he could finally rest and go to his fathers. He was referring to the Lord Jesus, the Light of the world.

Then the old prophetess Anna who was also there, spoke of the Child saying that He would be the sign for many and would bring the salvation of God to the nations, and together with Simeon, they were also saying that sorrow would come to Mary, the Mother of the Lord and figuratively saying that ‘a sword would pierce her own heart’, a reference and premonition of the sorrow that she would experience at the crucifixion and the death of her Son Jesus on the Cross.

St. John in his Epistle as we heard in our first reading spoke of the Light of the Lord having arrived and dwelled in our midst, and yet, many of us have yet to accept His light and turned our back against Him. The Light of God has entered into the world and yet we did not show Him true and genuine faith. We have done exactly what St. John said in his Epistle that while we claim to be living in the light, yet our actions show that we are still in darkness.

Let us all look no further than how we have lived our lives and how we celebrate this Christmas then. How many of us have lived our lives caring only about ourselves, acted selfishly and in our own self-interest all these time? Have we been focusing too much on our many plans and desires in life? And have we been forgetting Christ in all of our Christmas festivities and celebrations so far?

Today we are all being reminded that we are celebrating Christ, the Light of our salvation in this season of Christmas, and therefore our celebration focus should be on Him and not on ourselves, and neither should the focus be on the glamour or the merry-making themselves. We rejoice because the Lord has so lovingly and generously loved us that He gave us all Jesus, Our Lord and Salvation to bring us out from our wretched and sinful state.

Let us all look upon the Light of Christ and reflect on what He has done to us, all the love He has shown us, and strive to be faithful and renew our devotion to Him. We must not lose our focus on the Light that Christ has brought us or else, we may end up falling into the many temptations of the world, of power, fame and glory, of wealth and influence that in the end led us to sin against God.

That is why today we should look upon the faithful life and the examples set by today’s saint, namely the great St. Thomas Becket, the renowned Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of England from several centuries ago. He died in martyrdom defending the faith and the rights of the Church against the actions and tyranny of the then king of England, and was faithful to the very end despite the trials and challenges that he had to face for many years.

St. Thomas Becket himself was a close friend of the king of England, Henry II, and he was entrusted eventually with the important and powerful office of the Chancellor of England, becoming essentially the right hand man of the king. And king Henry II in his efforts to bring the Church and more income into his direct control, attempted to do so by appointing St. Thomas Becket to be the new Archbishop of Canterbury, the most influential and important bishop in all of England.

But contrary to what king Henry II had hoped, such an action actually completely undermined his effort and attempt to rule over the Church and the matters of faith. Although a good friend of the king, but his new responsibility as the Archbishop of Canterbury brought about a complete conversion of St. Thomas Becket, much like the Light of Christ dispelling the darkness of the world.

St. Thomas Becket opposed the king in his efforts to bring the Church under the control of the state, and when the king attempted to do so, and was trying to influence Church affairs, St. Thomas Becket opposed all of these and defended the rights and the independence of the Church. He was opposed by many of the nobles who sided with the king, and he had to endure bitter opposition and challenges, and were exiled from his See for more than once.

But this did not stop St. Thomas Becket from his courageous efforts and works in glorifying God and defending the rights of the Church. St. Thomas Becket persevered in his efforts to defend the Lord and His servants, and this led to his murder by the four knights who mistook the king’s drunken stupor and frustration with an order to execute the faithful bishop, who was in the eyes of many nobles, was a traitor to the king and country. Thus was how the infamous murder of St. Thomas Becket came to be, with the Archbishop murdered brutally in his Cathedral during prayer.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, hopefully the story of the faith and dedication of the faithful St. Thomas Becket can become an inspiration for many of us to follow just as we continue living our lives and in how we are celebrating this Christmas season in the days to come. Let us all be faithful and be good witnesses of the Lord at all times, that we may bring the Light of Christ into our darkened world through our every actions and deeds, at every moments of our lives. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 29 December 2020 : 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.”