Thursday, 31 December 2020 : 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, on this day we are reminded of the truth of our Lord’s salvation just as we continue to proceed through this season of Christmas, that He, the Word of God and the Word of truth has come into this world and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, His mother, to be the Saviour of all. We focus our attention today in His honour, to reorientate ourselves and our lives once again that we may indeed be centred on Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

In our Gospel passage today, we again heard of the same introduction to the Gospel of St. John that we have also heard during the Christmas Mass at daytime and which the Church has once decreed to be read at the last part of the Mass as the Last Gospel. In that passage we heard the proclamation of the unchanging truth of the salvation in the Word of God, Who was with God since the beginning, and Who was God.

And this same Word of God has become the Son, the Son of God Most High, begotten not created, sharing in the divinity of the Father and part of the Holy Trinity. The Word has come down into the world and became Flesh, the Son of God and the Divine Word became Incarnate as the Son of Man through Mary. Through Him we have seen the salvation of God and the love of God has also become tangible and accessible, no longer just a distant promise or hopeful wish.

We celebrate during this Christmas season the manifestation of this love in the Flesh, in Jesus Christ, the true focus and the true reason for all of our rejoicing and celebrations. This is why we need to hold this truth and this realisation with us, with firm conviction and with genuine commitment to the Lord, that despite whatever we may encounter, whatever we may be tempted with, we may remain committed to the path that the Lord has shown us.

The Lord has revealed His salvation to us and all of us have received this assurance and the fulfilment of God’s promise. He has shown that He has not abandoned us in our time of need. In fact, He has reached out to us and reassured us, embracing us even more. But sadly, many of us have not appreciated this love and this care that the Lord has shown us. Instead, we chose to follow the false leads of the false prophets and leaders that led us down the path of disobedience and sin.

This is what St. John also spoke of in our first reading today, as he spoke of the antichrists present all around us. All these antichrists are those who seek to subvert the truth of God and use falsehoods and lies to advance the interest of the evil ones. We have to be careful lest we end up falling into these traps of lies and falsehoods. That is why we have to hold firmly to our faith in God, to His truth and all that He has revealed to us and preserved in His Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all remember at the end of this current year that we should always keep in mind our path in life and take care that we do not fall down the wrong paths. As we look forward to a new year ahead, let us all remind ourselves that the Lord is our sole truth and our sole focus in life, and we should move forward with this being kept in mind all the time.

Today, let us all look at the examples and the life of Pope St. Silvester I, also known as Pope St. Sylvester, so that we may know how we can move forward in life as faithful Christians from now on. Pope St. Silvester was the Pope and therefore leader of the entire Universal Church at a time of great change both for the Church and the world at the time. He succeeded Pope St. Miltiades whose reign as Pope coincided with the end of the official persecution of Christians with the famous Edict of Milan by the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great.

Pope St. Silvester I reigned for over two decades during the time of great change and renewal of the Church, as it emerged out of the terrible persecutions of the previous decades and centuries. Pope St. Silvester I guided the Church through all those years, and helped to restore order amidst confusions and the divisions that happened due to the persecutions and the chaos that happened.

There had been many divisions in the Church, especially because of the many false leaders and heretics who misled the faithful to wrong teachings and paths. In the end, many fell and followed those false leaders, and it was Pope St. Silvester I and the many other faithful bishops, priests and leaders of the Church who worked tirelessly in order to restore the truth of God to the Church and the Christian faithful.

This culminated in the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea that happened during the reign of Pope St. Silvester. Although the Pope himself did not attend the Ecumenical Council, but through his legates and representatives, he helped to lead the Church together through the discussions and deliberations, and managed to come together with the canonical and orthodox definition of the faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through the life and examples of Pope St. Silvester I, as well as through the concerted effort of the Church leaders at that time in the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, steering the Church and the faithful through the difficult and divisive moments in its history, let us all therefore remind ourselves to keep being faithful to God and hold onto our Christian faith.

Let us all enter into the new year with a new hope, and bring hope to one another, and do our best to live our lives as faithful Christians and be exemplary to each other, that we may inspire more and more people to follow the Lord. And as we are still celebrating the season of Christmas, let us all bring the hope and joy of Christmas, the hope in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to all those who are still suffering and are in the darkness of despair and sorrow this year, that the Light of Christ may heal all of them and bring them to salvation. Amen.

Thursday, 31 December 2020 : 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.

Thursday, 31 December 2020 : 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.

Thursday, 31 December 2020 : 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.

Tuesday, 31 December 2019 : Seventh Day within the Octave of Christmas, Memorial of Pope St. Silvester I, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, the last day of the Gregorian solar calendar and which is also the seventh day in the Octave of Christmas, all of us are called to reflect on what has transpired and happened in the past one year of our lives, as well as how we have celebrated Christmas all these while, now that it is approaching one week since the beginning of our Christmas festivities.

At Christmas, its season and celebrations, all of us are always called to reorientate and refocus ourselves and our lives to God. Today’s Scripture readings are no different, as proven by today’s Gospel from the first chapter of the Gospel of St. John, the very same reading used for the Mass celebration of the daytime Christmas. In that reading, used to be read at every celebrations of the Mass according to the Extraordinary Form or the Tridentine Roman Rite, called the Last Gospel, is contained the essence of the fundamental Christian truths we believe in.

It is no coincidence also then that as this reading was used to be read at the end of every celebrations of the Holy Mass, and is still being read now by those who celebrate in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, that it is also being used today, at the very end of our solar calendar. This serves as a very important and timely reminder that God, Who was God, is God, and will always be God, the Word of God, has assumed the flesh of Man, and descended into this world, to become our Saviour.

And this truth is unchanging, just as God is always ever true through time immemorial, year after year, again and again. And as we progress on to the next year, beginning with tomorrow’s new year’s day, all of us are reminded of this truth which we have heard in our Gospel today, as we all believe in the One, Christ Who is the Divine Word incarnate, the Word made Flesh, by which He has gathered all of us to Himself and redeemed us by His sacrifice on the Cross.

It is this truth that we cherish and celebrate in Christmas, as we remind ourselves again of why we rejoice in this Christmas season, not for the merrymaking and gifts, or for the glamour and pleasures we receive from all the celebrations and parties, but rather because through our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, all of us have received the complete assurance of eternal life and salvation.

The same Child born in Bethlehem over two millennia ago and celebrated on Christmas, is the same One Who would be the Saviour of all, by voluntarily enduring for us all the sufferings and punishments intended for us because of our sins, and bearing all of them on His Cross, He brought us all the promise of a new life and hope in Him through faith. And yet, many of us have not believed in Him and His salvation.

As St. John told us through his Epistle in our first reading today, there are those who profess and proclaim different beliefs and truths from the truth which we have heard, and those are called the antichrists. Those antichrists work against the truth of God, the real and true Christ, through Whom we shall receive the fullness of God’s promise salvation, glory and life. But the forces of those arrayed against us, led by the antichrists and the devil, are powerful.

They have in their means and possessions, many tools to tempt us and lure us away from the path leading towards Christ. That is why St. John told us all to be vigilant and to be prepared, for the time will come, even as he has foreseen in the Book of Revelations, of the coming of the Lord and the final reckoning between good and evil. At that time, God will rescue all those who still remain faithful to Him and cast away from Him all those who reject Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore as we end this current solar year and begin a new year tomorrow, let us all reflect on our lives thus far and think of how we can progress in life with faith. And we should look therefore on the saint whose feast day we celebrate today, namely Pope St. Silvester I, one of the early Popes of the Church. Pope St. Silvester I was instrumental in his role in leading the Church into a new era after many centuries of persecutions.

At that time, the Church had just very recently survived through the most brutal era of persecution under the Roman Emperor Diocletian and which was partly continued by his successor, the Emperor Galerius. Just one year before the beginning of the reign of Pope St. Silvester, the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great and the Emperor of the East, Licinius agreed and signed the Edict of Milan in the year 313, proclaiming the toleration of Christians and ending of the many centuries of persecution.

Pope St. Silvester reigned for approximately twenty-one years, one of the longer reign among the Popes, leading the Church through this new era, a time when the Church began to receive support from the state and finally was able to celebrate publicly and freely the profession of their faith. Many important churches were built during this period and the foundations of the Church was strengthened by the efforts of Pope St. Silvester and his contemporaries.

He was also supportive of the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, the very first Ecumenical Council of the Church, which although he was unable to attend in person, but he did send delegates to the Council to support its works in declaring the objective Christian truth amidst the falsehoods of many of those who tried to lead the Church and the faithful astray, especially the heresy of Arianism, which Pope St. Silvester also courageously resisted and opposed.

As we have heard from the life and works of Pope St. Silvester, we can see how there are going to be lots of challenges and trials for us going forward in life, just as Pope St. Silvester encountered many challenges throughout his long twenty-one years pontificate. However, at the same time, just as he presided over a great new beginning of the Church and the faith, we too are called to look forward with faith and hope as we embark on this new year.

What is our resolution for this coming new year, brothers and sisters in Christ? If our resolution is all about gaining more wealth, glory and happiness for ourselves as many often do, year after year, or if we do not even have any resolution made or thought of at all, then I suggest that we resolve to enter this new year with a new faith in God, seeking to glorify Him from now on through our actions, and strive to follow Him and to be ever closer to Him, with each and every moments of our life.

Let us all give thanks to God for the year that has passed, for all its good and not so good things, for all that God has blessed us with. May the Lord continue to watch over us and bless us through the new year and beyond. May He be with us always, at all times. Amen.

Tuesday, 31 December 2019 : Seventh Day within the 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.

Tuesday, 31 December 2019 : Seventh Day within the Octave of Christmas, Memorial of Pope St. Silvester I, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 95 : 1-2, 11-12, 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.

Tuesday, 31 December 2019 : Seventh Day within the 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.

Monday, 31 December 2018 : 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, on this day, we are all reminded to keep the truth of Christ in our lives, to follow the path that God has shown us all as Christians, and not to believe in the falsehoods of the devil, the false prophets and all those who seek to mislead us into sin and destruction. In this season and time of Christmas, we ought to continue to reflect on what our faith is truly all about.

In the Gospel passage today, we listened to the beginning portion of the Holy Gospel according to St. John, we heard the same reading that is read during the Mass of Christmas Day, the narrative of the Word of God made Flesh, the Divine Word Incarnate, which used to be read at the end of the celebration of the Holy Mass as the Last Gospel. In that passage we heard how God sent His own beloved Son into the world, to be the Light of the world, and the salvation of all His people.

And through Him, we have received the fullness of truth, which He revealed to all of us, through His teachings and through the Holy Spirit, that gave us all the wisdom and understanding of what it means to become a follower of Christ, to be saved from our sins and from our fated destruction. In Him was revealed the fullness of God’s love for each and every one of us, by His own willingness to suffer and die for us on the cross, for our salvation.

The devil knows this well, and he knows that his fate and final defeat has been sealed, when the Lord conquered sin and death, by His own suffering and death on the cross, and by defeating death through the glorious resurrection from the dead. He showed all of us, that death does not have any more power over us, as long as we believe in Him, and put our trust and faith in Him, abandoning our old ways of sin and disobedience.

This is why the devil and his allies are always very busy at work, trying to subvert us and to turn us into the traps of sin that they had put into place in order to make us fall into eternal damnation together with him and his allies, the fallen angels, the demons. The devil does not want us to be saved, and this is why, he is placing in our path, many obstacles and temptations, in order to prevent us from receiving God’s saving grace.

He showed us path that is easier and more enjoyable and better than the Lord’s path, tempting us to follow him and to obey him instead of the path of the Lord. That is how we mankind fall into sin, when we allow the devil to tempt us and to turn us away from God. He is using the ego and pride, the greed and desire within our hearts and minds, to make us lose our way.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are all reminded by the Lord that we ought to rediscover that love which we should have for God, because after all, despite having disobeyed and sinned against Him, but He is still willing to forgive us our sins and to be reconciled with us, as long as we are willing to turn away from those sinful and wicked ways, and return to Him with sincere and repentant hearts.

We need to realise that the path that the Lord has shown us, although it may be filled with challenges and difficulties, but that is the path that will lead us to eternal life and true joy, and not the falsehoods presented by the devil and all of his wicked schemes. We must be careful not to be swayed and tempted by all of his schemes to make us fall into damnation, and as we approach the end of this current year, do we want to continue the next year with the same attitude in life?

Today we should make the resolution for our upcoming new year, with zeal and renewed faith in God, by seeking to turn away from our past mistakes, disobedience and all things that led to sin. We should look forward to a new life and existence in God, with the desire to serve Him and to love Him with all of out hearts and with all of our strength. Today, we celebrate the feast of Pope St. Silvester I, a holy and devout servant of God, during the years immediately after the toleration and liberation of the Christian faith from the harsh persecution under the early Roman Emperors.

Pope St. Silvester I did many work in establishing a stable foundation for the Church in those years, building many important churches and facilities, some of which are still present to this very day. He helped began a new chapter in the history of the Church, and he was also influential in the maintenance and expansion of the true, Orthodox faith in the midst of growing number of heresies and falsehoods that were widespread in the Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we should imitate the same zeal and courage, the commitment that Pope St. Silvester I had shown in embracing the enormous prospects that awaited the Church at that time, and we too should make use of the opportunity given to us by the Lord, in the coming year. Let us all devote ourselves and be faithful from now on, doing our very best to walk in the way of the Lord and love Him, each and every days of our life. Amen.

Monday, 31 December 2018 : 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.