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.”

Tuesday, 29 December 2020 : 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.

Tuesday, 29 December 2020 : 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.

Saturday, 29 December 2018 : 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 listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the Law and the commandments of God, His precepts that He has revealed and given to us, for our benefit and for our salvation. God has given us this Law to guide us and to help us on our way, that we can remain strong in our faith, and not be lost to the sways and the temptations of the world, the temptations and pressures for us to sin.

God intends for us to be reconciled with Him, and to be with Him once again, in His grace. He presented before us the way to Himself, and reminding us again and again, to obey Him and to listen to Him, and through those, He guided us through the perilous and difficult path towards His salvation, and many amongst us fell into the traps of sin, the temptations of the devil who is always constantly at work trying to pull us into damnation.

Unfortunately, as history had shown, despite the laws and commandments that God had given to His people, but many among them failed to understand and appreciate the real purpose and meaning of the Law. The most obvious example was shown in the Gospels, as the actions and philosophy of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law at the time of the Lord Jesus showed us. Those people claimed to be faithful, righteous and devout before others, but in reality, they were not.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law championed the way that required the people of God to live following a very strict and harsh application of the laws of Moses, where the people were expected to obey all the commandments, the precepts, the rules and regulations that were written in the Book of the Torah, as preserved from the time of Moses, the traditions and customs that were added along the way by the elders up to that time.

Yet, despite having outwardly showed piety and devotion to God, but in their hearts and minds, they did not give place to God. That was why, at the same time, many among them refused to listen to the Lord’s truth, when He came into their midst, even performing miracles and speaking words of God’s wisdom, revealing before them what the prophets had once spoken about, all being fulfilled in Christ.

That was because of the pride and ego that were in their hearts, which filled them up and prevented them from opening their hearts to God’s love. For they did obey the Law and follow the precepts of God, but they did so without knowing what the Law is actually all about. And the Law is in fact, all about love, just as Christ has revealed before us all, through His disciples. The essence and the heart of the Law is love, loving God and then loving one another.

And God is love, and He gave us the perfect example of His love, by giving us the perfect and best gift that nothing can surpass. He gave us His beloved Son, Who willingly emptied Himself from glory and majesty, and taking up the humble appearance of Man, born in the poorest conditions, in a dirty stable in Bethlehem, as a King Who was to save His people, and yet not with the power of arms and might, but with love, love that surpasses everything else.

That is why He presented before us, what the Law truly means, that is first and foremost, love for God, like the love which Christ as the Son has for His Father, as example for each and every one of us to follow. Instead of loving ourselves and being selfish, He emptied Himself and gave Himself so completely for the love of God His Father, and for the love He has for each and every one of us. He bore all the sufferings and pains, all of our sins, so that by His suffering and death, we may live.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Scripture readings and what we have just discussed, all spoke of how we should follow the Law of God, with understanding and appreciation of its meaning and purpose, by doing what the Lord Himself had shown us. We must first of all, love God with all of our strength, with all of our ability, and place Him as the first and foremost in our respective lives. And then, we must also love our fellow brethren in the same way, and as much as we love ourselves.

It is when we do not do this, but instead succumb to the temptations of our pride, ego and greed, that we end up sinning against God. Today, we celebrate the feast of a saint, whose devotion and love for God, whose faith and commitment to serve Him, caused him to suffer and to die in martyrdom when he stood by his faith against those who sought to attack the Church and who wished to follow their own ego, pride and greed.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Thomas Becket, a famous saint and bishop who was the Archbishop of Canterbury and thus, the Primate of England, the most important bishop and leader of the Church in the British isles. St. Thomas Becket, prior to his reign as the Archbishop of Canterbury, was once a powerful noble, who was a good and close friend to king Henry II of England, and was appointed as the Chancellor of England, a position that is probably just second to the king in the secular realm.

King Henry II then appointed St. Thomas Becket as the Archbishop of Canterbury, hoping that keeping the highest ranked clergy in his realm close to him, as one of his closest confidants, the king and his fellow nobles could benefit financially and from other collaborations because of this appointment. However, little did king Henry II realised or could have predicted that St. Thomas Becket had a change of heart and conversion after taking up the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Amidst the struggle and controversies between the Church and the state, especially with matters of state jurisdiction and control over the Church, and the appropriation of properties and the right of nobles and the king over the Church matters, St. Thomas Becket stood up for his fellow churchmen, and defended the rights of the Church against the egoistic and corrupt desires of the nobility and the king.

As a result, the growing tension between the Archbishop and the king eventually resulted in the action taken by four nobles with tacit support from the king, in assassinating St. Thomas Becket right at his Cathedral, and thus making him a martyr of the Church, who died defending his faith and the rights of the Church of God, against those who sought to attack it for corrupt purposes.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have seen how St. Thomas Becket went through a conversion of heart and being, from one who lived his life of pleasure and debauchery, into a courageous and committed defender of the faith, who did not fear even going against the mighty and the powerful in his love for God and for His people, the flock whose souls were entrusted under his care. We too can follow in his examples and imitate his commitment to the Lord.

Today therefore, let us all reflect on our own lives, and see in which area that we have failed to live up to our expectation to observe the Law of God, not just in words and in paying lip service like what many of the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law, king Henry II and his nobles had done, but with pure and genuine love for God as St. Thomas Becket and many other holy men and women of God had done. May the Lord be with us all, and bless us in our effort to live more worthily of Him, day after day. Amen.

Saturday, 29 December 2018 : 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.”

Saturday, 29 December 2018 : 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.

Saturday, 29 December 2018 : 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.

Friday, 29 December 2017 : 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 from the first reading taken from the Epistle of St. John, we listened to the exhortation made by St. John to the people, about the matter of obedience to God’s laws and commandments. All of us must believe in God’s commandments and obey Him if we are to be truly belonging to Him, and if we want to call ourselves as true Christians.

We cannot consider ourselves to be devoted to God on one hand, and then on the other hand, perform actions and deeds that are contrary to God’s laws and commandments. If we do such a thing, basically what we have done is an utter disgrace and scandal upon our faith, as well as a wicked thing in the eyes of the Lord. St. John himself did not mince his words in the passage today, as he said that those who did not follow God’s laws and yet claim to be His disciple is a liar.

In the Gospel passage today, we then listen to another reading, from an account of the moment when Our Lord Jesus was presented as a Baby eight day after He was born in Bethlehem, at the Temple of Jerusalem, in accordance with the laws which God had revealed to His people through His servant Moses, that all the firstborn sons of Israel ought to be presented and offered to Him to be consecrated to God.

Mary and Joseph obeyed the law faithfully and presented the Baby Jesus as prescribed by the law. There they met Simeon, an old man who was renowned for his faith in God, and who then told Mary about the fate that awaited her as well as her Son Jesus. God told Simeon that he would not die until he gazed his eyes on the Saviour of the world, the Messiah, and so he did. And as we heard in the Gospel today, Simeon revealed a prophecy to Mary.

Simeon told her that the Baby would become a Sign to Israel, and indeed, the Sign of God’s salvation, for it was through Him that mankind has been saved from sin and death, because of the loving and ultimate sacrifice He made on the cross at Calvary. And at the same time, Simeon gave Mary a premonition to Mary, about her own great sorrow because of what was to happen to her Son.

He said to her that a sword would pierce her own heart, which is a figurative and symbolic way of representing the great sorrow which Mary experienced at the moment of the suffering and the crucifixion of her Son, Jesus Christ, as He went through His Passion. And as a loving mother who loved her Son greatly, it must have been very painful for her to witness what was happening to Him on the cross.

And yet, all of us should follow the example of Our Lord Jesus, Mary His mother and Joseph, His foster father, the Holy Family, as we link it back to what we have heard in the first reading today. All of them are the epitome and best examples of faith and obedience to God, as Jesus was obedient to His Father’s will, and obeyed Him even to the point of accepting death on the cross.

For Mary, she obeyed the Lord and followed His will, even though she knew that she would have to go through a lot of difficult hardships and challenges, she had to encounter many obstacles, and she had to see her Son being rejected by the very people He was sent to save. She had to witness Him being persecuted and tortured, and eventually die a most painful death on the cross. Yet, she remained faithful, all the way, and yes, all the way to the foot of the cross.

And Joseph also faithfully devoted himself to protect the Holy Family, bringing the Baby Jesus and Mary to Egypt for exile when king Herod wanted Him dead. He brought them back to Nazareth when it was safe, and helped to bring up Jesus and guide Him during His younger years, as a loving father, even though Jesus was not his biological Son.

We can see the great faith and dedication in the members of the Holy Family. And today, we celebrate yet another saint and servant of God, whose faith and dedication to the Lord led to his brave defense of the faith and holy martyrdom in that same faith, refusing to disobey the Lord and betray Him. He is St. Thomas Becket of Canterbury, the Archbishop of Canterbury who lived and reigned as Archbishop approximately eight centuries ago.

St. Thomas Becket was the Chancellor to the King of England, king Henry II. King Henry appointed St. Thomas Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury, as the leader and Primate of All England, hoping that by doing so, he would be able to control the Church in his dominions and bend it to his will, as St. Thomas Becket was his good friend and also his close confidant.

However, St. Thomas Becket had a renewal of heart and he was called by God to a greater purpose. He turned his life around and abandoning all of his former wicked lifestyle, he began to walk faithfully in God’s path from then on. In the end, he had to stand up against the king and his nobles who were increasingly manipulative and hostile to the works of the Church.

St. Thomas Becket refused to give in to the demands of the king, and when a nobleman killed a priest of the Church, St. Thomas Becket excommunicated the nobleman even when the king showed his great displeasure and anger at this action. In the end, the king called for his removal, and some of his noblemen went to St. Thomas Becket in his Cathedral, and murdered him in cold blood.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all those servants of God, the members of the Holy Family, Our Lord Jesus Himself have shown us how we ought to be faithful to God’s laws and commandments, and we must not allow worldly temptations and desires to distract and lead us astray. We should be faithful and be courageous in our faith, and live in accordance with God’s ways from now on, if we have not done so yet.

May the Lord bless all of us and may He strengthen us in our faith, that we may always walk in the footsteps of His faithful servants, and in the path set by His own Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. May God be with us always, now and forever. Amen.

Friday, 29 December 2017 : 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.”