Thursday, 2 January 2020 : 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 the Scripture readings which at the same time inspired us with the faith and dedication of St. John the Baptist while also warning us of the false leaders and antichrists who will try to mislead the faithful into the path of sin and darkness, away from God’s salvation. Hence, today we are presented with the contrasts between those who truly are faithful to God and those who served the devil.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the words of St. John the Baptist that he spoke towards the priests and the Levites, likely the members of the Pharisees that would later oppose the Lord Jesus and His works, as these people also doubted the authority and veracity of St. John the Baptist, questioning him on the validity and the source of his teachings and works among the people as he baptised many people at the Jordan.

They asked if he had the authority to do what he has been doing and wondering if he was the Messiah that God has promised to His people. St. John the Baptist clearly told those who asked him that he was not the Messiah and that he was just the one who was sent into this world to prepare the way for the Messiah of God. Had anyone else been asked of this at that time, more likely than not they would have claimed that they were the Messiah promised by God.

As historical evidence had it, and which was recorded even in the Acts of the Apostles, there had been people at that time who claimed that they were the Messiah, gathered a following, large at times, and quite a few rebelled against the Romans and the authorities, only for them all to vanish when their leaders were arrested and condemned to death. Their supposed missions and Messiah title did not last because indeed they were not the Messiah.

St. John had the means to do the same, and he had a large following of people who themselves thought that he was the Messiah promised by God. They came to him and thronged to him because they believed in his words and sought reconciliation with God through baptism. St. John the Baptist’s great charisma and faith could have easily made him the cherished Messiah of the Israelites as other false Messiahs had done before him.

But that was not what St. John the Baptist had chosen to do, as he remained faithful completely to the task that he had been entrusted with, and he clearly stated publicly that he was not the Messiah, but only the one sent to precede the coming of the one and true Messiah, Jesus Christ. He proclaimed this before the priests and Levites sent to question him, and he also did the same before his disciples. And when the Lord Jesus came to him for His baptism, St. John the Baptist proclaimed Him as the Lamb of God and thus the Messiah to his own disciples.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are called to look upon the good examples set by St. John the Baptist who placed himself completely in the hands of God, entrusting his whole self to the Lord’s providence and giving his whole life to God without regards for his own pride, ego and desire. This is contrasted to the attitudes of many among the Pharisees, the false Messiahs and the leaders who led the people astray.

And today, we have yet two more great examples of faith we can be inspired with, in St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, as we celebrate their feast day today. Both of these saints also had to contend with the heretics and their powerful influence at their time, at a time when those false teachings and ideas threatened not only to destroy the unity of the Church, but also the salvation of many souls and the survival of the Church and faith itself.

St. Basil the Great was the Bishop of Caesarea in Asia Minor, who was the contemporary of St. Gregory Nazianzen, who was the Archbishop of Constantinople. They were strongly opposed to the erroneous and yet popular Arian heresy, as championed by the heretic priest Arius, who claimed that Jesus Christ was not the equal of the Father and that He was created by the Father rather than being co-eternal and co-existing with the Father from before the beginning of time as we believe in our Christian faith.

Arius was a very charismatic man, much like that of St. John the Baptist, but he chose to champion a view divergent and different from the Christian truth, and got a large following especially in the eastern parts of the Roman Empire and among the Germanic peoples beyond the boundaries of the Empire. The Arian heresy affected quite a large portion of the faithful and in fact many bishops took the side of Arius until the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea finally condemned the teachings of Arius as being heretical.

Nonetheless, the Arian heresy still remained for many decades and centuries after the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, and it was the vigorous efforts and works of both St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen in opposing this heresy among some other heresies like Apollinarianism and more, that the true Catholic and orthodox faith survived and many among the faithful who had been ensnared by the false teachings returned to the true faith.

In the course of their efforts, they encountered many trials and difficulties, oppositions from clergy and bishops who were favourable to the Arian heresy in particular, and even the hierarchy of the Imperial government and the Emperors themselves who were Arian in their profession of faith. Yet, St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen persevered in their faith and in their efforts, and their extensive writings on the truth of the Christian faith made them to be recognised as two of the original Doctors of the Church together with St. Ambrose of Milan and St. Augustine of Hippo.

All of them served the Lord and put Him first and foremost in their lives. Are we able to do the same with our own lives, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to be faithful as St. John the Baptist, St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory Nazianzen and all of our holy predecessors have shown us? This is the challenge that we have been given as we continue to live our lives and as we embark through the journey in this new year.

May the Lord continue to guide us through life and may He strengthen us always each and every moments of our lives that we may grow ever stronger in faith and that we may always seek the truth of God in all things, and not to allow our pride, ego and desire to overcome us. May the Lord bless each and every one of us, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 2 January 2020 : 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.

Thursday, 2 January 2020 : 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.

Thursday, 2 January 2020 : 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.

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.