Wednesday, 2 January 2019 : Weekday of Christmas Time, Memorial of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today through the readings of the Sacred Scriptures we are reminded of the necessity for us to discern carefully our path in life, and to follow the way that the Lord has shown before us, not to fall into the trap of falsehood and the path of heresies, by which Satan is trying to pull us away from God and from His salvation. God has given us His truth, and those who claimed otherwise than this truth, are the servants of the devil.

In today’s Gospel reading, we have heard the story of the life and work of St. John the Baptist, the herald and servant of the Lord, who was to be the last one to come to prepare the way for the coming of God’s Saviour, that is Our Lord, Jesus Christ. St. John the Baptist went to live in the desert, and spent his time calling on the people to turn away from their sins and to repent their past wickedness in life.

He performed the baptism with water at the River Jordan, with many people who came to him, wanting to be baptised by him, and as symbol of their penitential intention. Many would have thought that he was the Messiah who has been prophesied to come by the earlier prophets, by virtue of his wisdom and his call for the people to repentance, but St. John the Baptist openly said before those who asked him, including the Pharisees who doubted him, that he was not the Messiah, but merely the one who was to prepare the way for Him.

In this, we see the contrast between the two, on one hand, St. John the Baptist, faithful and yet humble servant of God, and on the other hand, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who were often proud and boisterous about their faith, but they did not act in the manner that God had wanted them to be. The latter rejected the truth of God as revealed through St. John the Baptist, which we had seen in our Gospel passage today, in how they doubted St. John the Baptist and mocked him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we also celebrate the feast of two other holy and devout servants of Our God, who have also encountered many challenges and difficulties throughout their respective ministries. They are St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, two of the original Doctors of the Church, whose many works and inspiring writings helped to shape the doctrine and the teachings of the Church in its early years, especially during the time when there were numerous heresies and falsehoods.

St. Basil the Great was the bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, an area in Asia Minor, while St. Gregory Nazianzen was the Archbishop of Constantinople, the eastern capital of the Roman Empire. These two holy men lived and ministered to the people of God at a crucial time, when the faithful and the Church were beset by many heresies, especially that of Arianism, which denied the equality of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, with the Father, as well as many other heresies, syncretic and false faith.

St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, in their respective areas of responsibility, and in whatever they could do, committed their lives to the service of God, and to the benefit of those flock that has been entrusted to their care, and even more. They were also known for their care and concern for their flock, in their physical and material well-being, on top of their concern for the spiritual benefits of their people.

The divisions and bitterness caused by the many heresies at that time, were not easy to be overcome. Nonetheless, the great efforts of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen have been instrumental in the reunion of the many divided branches and segments of the Church and the faithful, and many were reconciled to the true faith by their efforts, and by their hard work and tireless dedications.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what we have heard and discussed today, should be inspiration for each and every one of us, in how we should put our trust in God and keep ourselves away from all the lies and falsehoods of the devil, the false prophets and all those who are working not for the greater glory of God, but for their own glory and for the purpose of Satan. We should remain strong and faithful to the Lord despite all the challenges we encounter in life.

May the Lord help us, through the examples of His holy saints, faithful servants who devoted their lives to serve Him, St. John the Baptist, St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory Nazianzen, and the many other holy and devout men and women of God. May He bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019 : Weekday of Christmas Time, Memorial of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 1 : 19-28

This was the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites to ask him, “Who are you?” John recognised the truth, and did not deny it. He said, “I am not the Messiah.”

And they asked him, “Then who are you? Elijah?” He answered, “I am not.” They said, “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Tell us who you are, so that we can give some answer to those who sent us. How do you see yourself?”

And John said, quoting the prophet Isaiah, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness : Make straight the way of the Lord!”

Those who had been sent were Pharisees; and they put a further question to John, “Then why are you baptising, if you are not the Messiah, or Elijah, or the Prophet?” John answered, “I baptise you with water, but among you stands One Whom you do not know; although He comes after me, I am not worthy to untie the strap of His sandal.”

This happened in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, where John was baptising.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019 : Weekday of Christmas Time, Memorial of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4

Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

The Lord has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you lands, make a joyful noise to the Lord, break into song and sing praise.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019 : Weekday of Christmas Time, Memorial of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 2 : 22-28

Who is the liar? The one who denies that Jesus is the Christ. This is an antichrist, who denies both the Father and the Son. The one who denies the Son is without the Father, and those who acknowledge the Son also have the Father.

Let what you heard from the beginning remain in you. If what you heard from the beginning remains in you, you, too, will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise He Himself gave us : eternal life.

I write this to you thinking of those who try to lead you astray. You received from Him an anointing, and it remains in you, so you do not need someone to teach you. His anointing teaches you all things, it speaks the truth and does not lie to you; so remain in Him, and keep what He has taught you.

And now, my children, live in Him, so that when He appears in His glory, we may be confident and not ashamed before Him when He comes.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018 : Weekday of Christmas Time, Memorial of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard two testimonies of faith, one from St. John the Evangelista and Apostle in his Epistle to the faithful, which is our first reading passage today, and the other is from the testimony of faith of St. John the Baptist before the Pharisees and the priests who were sent to him to ask him about who he really was, in our Gospel passage today.

In the first reading today, we heard of St. John who warned the people about the dangers of the lies and falsehoods of the antichrist, those whose designs and works are against the truth of God, and trying to lead astray the faithful people of God into sin and darkness. This was made against the reality of the Church at the time, when certain preachers or leaders might be proclaiming messages and teachings contrary to the truth.

Then, in the Gospel passage we heard about St. John the Baptist, who was questioned by the Pharisees and the priests sent by the Temple, who doubted his teaching authority and the actions he had done, in baptising the people and proclaiming the coming of the Messiah and the kingdom of God. They asked whether St. John the Baptist was in reality, the Messiah Who was promised to the people of Israel by the ancient prophecies.

St. John the Baptist was very popular among the people, and many flocked to the river Jordan in order to listen to his preaching, and many gave themselves to be baptised by him in the river. He could have used his popularity and claimed that he was the Messiah and Saviour of the world, and many would have believed his claim. And yet, as we witnessed, he publicly declared before those who questioned him, that he was not the Messiah.

St. John the Baptist showed all of us the essence of true discipleship, obeying the Lord’s commandments and carrying out faithfully the mission which he had been entrusted with, that is to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord, and to welcome Him into the world, by calling upon many people to turn away from their sins and repent, that they and their hearts may be receptive to receive God’s words and truth when He came.

And he humbly accepted his role, as he had done with the Pharisees and the priests’ question regarding his identity, by revealing to all that he was merely the one who preceded the coming of the Messiah, the One Whose coming would be glorious, and he himself would not be worthy even to untie the straps of His sandals. His humility and obedience to God was truly noteworthy, and it is an example that all of us Christians should be following.

Today, we also celebrate the feast day of two great saints of the Church, two of the four original Doctors of the Church, truly devoted and great servants of God like St. John the Baptist. They are St. Basil of Caesarea, also known as St. Basil the Great, and St. Gregory Nazianzen. Both of them were renowned Church fathers and important persona of the early Church, especially in the formulation of the correct and true teachings of the faith, against the various forms of heresies and falsehoods abundant at that time.

Both St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen lived and worked at the time when the Church was bitterly divided over theological disagreements, on the many aspects of the faith. Many heretics and false prophets brought the people into heresy and sin in order to advance their own self-aggrandised and ambitious agenda. This was precisely what the Apostle St. John warned us against in his Epistle, in our first reading today.

St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen stood fast against those who were trying to undermine the unity of the Church and spread false teachings and lies. They worked hard among the people of God, not for their own personal goals or ambition, but for the greater glory of God, and for the salvation of the souls of their brethren, who were about to be doomed to hell had they continued in their path of heresy.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, by looking at the examples of these devout and hardworking saints and servants of Our God, all of us as Christians should also be inspired to live as these holy predecessors of ours have lived their lives. Let us all therefore do our best in order to live faithfully in accordance with God’s will, and seek to be ever more committed to serve Him day after another.

May the Lord bless each and every one of us, that we may draw ever closer to Him, and so that we may find our way to Him and to the eternal glory He has promised all of us. Amen.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018 : Weekday of Christmas Time, Memorial of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 1 : 19-28

This was the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites to ask him, “Who are you?” John recognised the truth, and did not deny it. He said, “I am not the Messiah.”

And they asked him, “Then who are you? Elijah?” He answered, “I am not.” They said, “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Tell us who you are, so that we can give some answer to those who sent us. How do you see yourself?”

And John said, quoting the prophet Isaiah, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness : Make straight the way of the Lord!”

Those who had been sent were Pharisees; and they put a further question to John, “Then why are you baptising, if you are not the Messiah, or Elijah, or the Prophet?” John answered, “I baptise you with water, but among you stands One Whom you do not know; although He comes after me, I am not worthy to untie the strap of His sandal.”

This happened in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, where John was baptising.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018 : Weekday of Christmas Time, Memorial of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4

Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

The Lord has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you lands, make a joyful noise to the Lord, break into song and sing praise.