Pro-Christ or Anti-Christ?
Homily for the Memorial of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church
Preached on January 2, 2009 at Mary, Queen of the Holy Rosary Church, Lexington KY
Readings: 1 John 2:22-28; Psalm 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4; John 1:19-28
The three of them went to school together. They had met in Athens where they had gone to study rhetoric. Each one came from a distinguished and well-educated family: Basil belonged to a family that had three generations of saints. Gregory’s father was the bishop of his hometown. Julian was a member of the Imperial Family. Everyone in school could tell that they were destined for greatness, and it didn’t take that much time before each of them rose to prominence. Basil the lawyer eventually was ordained a bishop. Gregory the teacher was later raised to the dignity of the Patriarch of Constantinople. And Julian the scholar ascended to the purple and was crowned Emperor of Rome.
Here we have three men who have studied together yet today we venerate only two of them as saints: Basil who is called the Revealer of the Heavenly Mysteries, and Gregory who is known as the Theologian. The third man, Julian, who had risen to the throne of Caesar, had since been known as the Apostate, the one who had abandoned and rejected the Faith.
These three men went to school together, but it was Julian who allowed himself to be misled by the lies of pagan philosophies. Instead of remaining in the Faith that he had heard from the beginning, he denied that Jesus is the Christ (1 Jn. 2:22) and simply referred to Him as ‘the Galilean.’ He turned his back on the Church and worshipped false gods. He became an anti-Christ, a man set against Christ, a man who denied the Father and the Son (1 Jn. 2:22).
But, Basil and Gregory would not be misled by any anti-Christs; they firmly stood pro-Christ, as men who remained for Christ. They were faithful to the Church and professed the Nicene Creed. They believed in the truth of the Gospel and preached that Jesus is Lord and God.
Basil and Gregory put their faith in the words of the Lord: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (Jn. 14:6). They believed that Jesus is the Way and followed Him. They believed that He is the Truth and trusted Him. They believed that He is the Life and served Him. In return they received the promise that the Lord made us: eternal life (1 Jn. 2:25).
Julian however had no faith in the words of the Lord. He denied that Jesus is the Way and found himself lost. He denied that Jesus is the Truth and was deceived by the lies of idols. He denied that Jesus is the Life and, in the end, found himself dying, defeated, and in despair, crying out one last time anti-Christ, against Christ, “You have won, O Galilean!”
Today, these three schoolmates bring to us this lesson: even an emperor is no match for the Galilean. Julian learned this lesson the hard way. But Basil and Gregory knew it all along. That is why they gave up their promising careers in law and rhetoric to serve Him whom Julian called ‘the Galilean.’ Yes, their family background and their education have destined them for greatness, but Basil and Gregory knew that only Jesus Christ can give them and us “a future full of hope” (Jer. 29:11).