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.

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.

Monday, 31 December 2018 : 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.