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.