Saturday, December 29, 2007

Witness in the Cathedral during the Christmas Octave!

As you probably know we are in the Octave of Christmas (eight days of Christmas Day). So great is the festival of the Incarnation of the Eternal Word of God that we celebrate the single event for eight days.

During these eight days of Christmas we have celebrated St. Stephen the Proto-Martyr and Deacon ("first born" into heaven after the Resurrection through martyrdom), St. John the Apostle and Evangelist ("beloved disciple" of the Lord, according to the Gospel of John), the Holy Innocents ("first witnesses" who unwittingly shed their blood for the Lord during his life) and today, a commemoration, in honor of St. Thomas Becket, martyred Archbishop of Canterbury), 1118-1170.

I would like to comment on St. Thomas Becket. There was a film made in the early 1960s called "Becket" starring the late Richard Burton in the title role and Peter O'Toole as his nemesis, King Henry II. It's a good film, but rather condensed as far as history is concerned. There are many sites on the Internet you can look up for historical details.

For the purpose of this Blog, I would like to reflect on Thomas' own conversion from being a rather arrogant man to learning humility and courage by his willingness to take on the yoke of archiepiscopal office.

St. Thomas Becket, 1182-1170
Martyred Archbishop of Canterbury

Please note that he was killed before the birth of St. Francis of Assisi (1182), and so this has nothing immediately to do with the Franciscan movement. Rather, it seems that Thomas was more influenced by the Benedictine tradition of monasticism, although he never professed religious vows.

Thomas underwent an ongoing conversion. First, he reluctantly accepted the archiepiscopal office and see from his friend King Henry. Apparently the election was "irregular", which Thomas later would confess to Pope Alexander.

Initially Henry thought he could control his new primate of England, but as matters between Church and State, and Thomas and Henry, became increasingly sticky and hostile, the king regretted having made his one-time friend and former Chancellor of England to be Archbishop or Canterbury.

When Thomas did meet with the pope in Rome to appeal his case and confessed the apparent irregularity, he thereupon resigned his office as archbishop. At first the pope accepted his resignation, but later on changed his mind and reinstated Thomas by returning him his bishop's ring and telling him that he was to do God's work back in England.

After a lengthy interval, Thomas and Henry made some peace and Thomas received permission to return to England to serve as archbishop. While Henry was in France, though, his advisers informed him that he would have no peace and only rivalry for authority as long as Thomas was left alive. Then the king made his infamously historical statement, which his barons took as both rebuke and directive, "Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?"

The barons understood this as a royal edict and proceeded to murder Thomas in Our Lady's transept of Canterbury Cathedral as Vespers were underway and darkness covered the land. He was canonized two years later, and Henry also did penance for his implication in the archbishop's death.

Contemporary depticion of the Martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket

Our Christian vocation, which we receive from baptism, is to give witness to our faith in our daily lives, whether convenient or inconvenient.

Our vocation is to live and proclaim the truth in love (cf. Eph. 4:15), and that truth is a person, Jesus Christ!

Even during Christmastime, this requires a conversion on our part, doesn't it? From what to what?

More than a preparation for new year's resolutions, it seems to be an opportunity to call upon the Lord, like Thomas Becket did, and ask the Lord where he wants us to change! Christian life is ongoing conversion; our common Christian vocation is ongoing conversion.

Thomas allowed God's Word, the Holy Scritpures, to take root in his heart and to change his life, his attitude, his perspective and his very lifestyle!

I encourage us to take this to the Lord in prayer and let him show us. Do we need more courage in the face possible unpopularity? Do we need more compassion in the face of poverty or other people's disabilities? Do we need to work through forgiveness of someone who has betrayed us?

Let's ask the Lord for the courage of St. Thomas Becket, to let the Incarnate Son of God change us so that our lives may more fully reflect his life in us!

1 comment:

Connie said...

FR.KIM PEACE This inspiring article on Thomas Beckett is wonderful Thomas was a very Holy Man and Priest Thomas realized that no matter what adveristy he would face JESUS CHRIST would be there for him. Even at the moment of his DEATH Thomas never lost his FAITH IN OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST and to be cantonized a SAINT after only two years is remarkable in itself.As this NEW YEAR'S IS approaching very rapidly let us all in 2008 continue to PRAY FOR PEACE IN THE WORLD OUR WORLD AND NATIONAL LEADERS AND FOR EACH OTHER. Let us all be reminded that JESUS is truly the reason for all BLESSINGS in our LIVES.And just as THOMAS BECKETT let us all continue to share and spread the GREAT NEWS WE HAVE HEARD EVERYDAY THE WORD AND GOSPEL OF OUR DEAR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST.AMEN! GOD BLESS YOU Thank You Connie