29th December, St. Thomas Becket

1 John 2:3-11 / Luke 2:22-35  

A light for all the nations; The light is shining


If we don’t love, we are in darkness. Gnosticism was a thorn in the side of the early Church. This heresy derived its name from the Greek word for “knowledge.” Gnosticism took many twists and is difficult to define.

At the risk of oversimplification, Gnostics held that salvation came through “knowledge” or faith, not good works. In other words, if you were “in the light” and believed, you could do pretty much what you wanted, even ignore the essential needs of your brothers and sisters. John condemns this heresy, saying, “Whoever says that he is in the light, yet hates his brother, is in the darkness.”


Do we consider ourselves disciples of Jesus, yet turn our back on the needs of our brothers and sisters? “If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples.”


God comes to his temple today as if incognito, as a child carried in the arms of its mother. Simeon, the old man in the Temple, took Jesus in his arms and recognized this child as the Savior expected by the Jews in the Old Testament but also as the salvation of all people. In him, the old Israel can fade away in peace. This child was to be the glory of Israel, yes, but also the light to enlighten everyone including pagans. He comes to us now not merely to be the light of us Christians. He does not belong to us alone but to all. St. John tells us how to reflect the light of Christ: all those who love their neighbors are living in the light. 


On this fifth day in the octave of Christmas, the Church celebrates the optional memorial of St. Thomas Becket, bishop and martyr.

He was born in London and after studying in Paris, entered the service of Archbishop of Canterbury, became Lord Chancellor under King Henry II in 1155, and in 1162 Archbishop of Canterbury.

He went from being "a patron of play-actors and a follower of hounds" to being a "shepherd of souls" as he absorbed himself in the duties of his new office, defending the rights of the Church against king Henry II. This prompted the king to exile him to France for six years.

After returning to his homeland he endured many trials, and agents of the king travelled to Canterbury and fell upon the bishop while he was attending evening prayer.

His priests rushed to his aid and tried to bar the church door; Thomas opened it himself with these words: The house of God will not be defended like a fortress. I gladly face death for the Church of God.

Then to the soldiers: I command it in the Name of God: No harm may be done to any of mine. Thereupon he cast himself on his knees, commended his flock and himself to God, to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to St. Denis and other holy patrons of the Church, and with the same heroic courage with which he had withstood the king's laws, he bowed his holy head to the sacrilegious sword on December 29, 1170."

St. Thomas Becket saw the light, the real light that was already shining, as the 1st reading puts it, and hence he was courageous in life as in death.

Like Simeon in the gospel, St. Thomas Becket also saw the light, and it was a light that shone in the darkness, a darkness of rejection and persecution and trial and finally martyrdom.

St. Thomas Becket became a beacon of light for the Church, so much so that in 1539, king Henry VIII ordered his remains to be burned, and that was like 400 years after his death.

Yes, darkness can never overcome or overpower the true light. May we see that light, follow that light, be enlightened by that light and become beacons of light.

Let us pray: God, Father of light, the old man, Simeon, recognized your Son as the light that would shine on all. May we too, recognize Jesus, even if he comes to us in a humble way, in the shape and person of a child, of old people, of the poor and the little ones. Make us receive him too, as the light not only of our lives but as the bright dawn for all nations. For you are the Father of all and Jesus belongs to all as their Savior and Lord, now and forever.