Daily Reflection
December 29th, 2001
Richard Super
History Department
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I John 2:3-11
Psalms 96:1-2, 2-3, 5-6
Luke 2:22-35

Today is the feast day of St. Thomas Becket, the twelfth century Archbishop of Canterbury who challenged his king and erstwhile friend, Henry II, over the freedom and authority of the Catholic Church in England versus the growing power and grasp of the monarchy.  It was a confrontation that ended tragically when soldiers loyal to the king interpreted his anger as a death sentence for the priest, a bloody act they carried out on this date in 1170.  If truth be told, my initial admiration for Becket was likely the result of my fascination with the heralded 1964 film of the same name featuring Richard Burton as the righteous Becket and Peter O’Toole, as Henry, muttering darkly “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”  In the 1960’s, there was much in this tale of struggle between a single man of truth and the blind power of the state to attract a new, and probably naive, college student.

At the same time maturity, hopefully streaked with occasional wisdom, has not diminished my esteem for this St. Thomas.  But today, I see him not only as stubbornly courageous, but rather as someone also blessed by God with the strength and perseverance to do what he was called to do.  Biographers like to relate his ordination (ordered by the king and performed only the day before his installation as archbishop!) as a turning point in his life, a defining moment in which he saw the light, a light taking him in a very different direction.  How fitting that the today’s Gospel reading portrays another man, Simeon, who likewise enjoyed a moment of revealing light.  Drawn to the temple in Jerusalem by the Holy Spirit, he espies and even holds the infant Jesus in his arms, immediately recognizing the newborn Son of God as “a revealing light to the Gentiles, the glory of your people Israel.”  Similarly, John’s letter in today’s first reading describes the Incarnation as turning point for all mankind.  Now, “the darkness is over and the real light begins to shine.”

My meditations today thus turn toward the lights that God provides in my own life, illuminating the way for me to go.  Maybe those lights were not quite as dramatic as the ones given to St. Thomas and maybe I have not noticed them as readily as did Simeon.  But they have undeniably been there whenever I looked.  They seem especially noticeable at Christmas time.  They are witnessed in the love of grown children who come home to be with me and each other. One finds them in the fervent prayers for those far away but hardly forgotten and in voices lifted in praiseful songs that never grow old.  There is light in the remarkable generosity of so many to strangers in need and in the universal desire to bring forth in the world the true peace announced by a Child two thousand years ago.  Therefore, I am encouraged to love, to remember, to praise God, to give of myself, and to seek out ways to be an instrument of peace in my world.  Christmas, it is the season of lights.   

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