31st December. Seventh Day of the Christmas Octave
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First Reading: 1 John 2:18-21
Children, it is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But by going out they made it plain that none of them belongs to us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and all of you have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and you know that no lie comes from the truth.
(The sublime prologue of the Fourth Gospel)
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 came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
Homily thoughts: The Last Hour: the Feast of Saint Sylvester
On new year’s eve the Church commemorates Saint Sylvester, who was the pope for 21 years, beginning January 314, just at the time when the Roman empire’s persecutions of Christianity ended and the open, public worship of God through Jesus Christ finally was allowed across the Roman qoels. Sylvester led the Church throughout the reign of emperor Constantine, and in his time the importance of the Church for the salvation of the world was officially recognised. The Church is not just another organisation – it is the mysterious ‘Body of Christ’, and at its head stands Jesus Christ, truly present amongst his followers, inspiring each of them to help build the Kingdom of God on this earth. This idea runs through the whole Christmas Octave.
Saint John’s phrase, Children, it is the last hour! sounds especially apt on this final day of 2013. Not just to bid us ring in the New Year with our customary gusto, but to renew our sense that our life is a pilgrimage, that we are on a journey towards our meeting with the Lord, face to face. We make this journey in a spirit of gratitude and trust, because of our Emmanuel always with us, since “the Word became flesh and lived among us, full of grace and truth” – and because “to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.”