Becket knew his king had not forgiven him, nor had he forgotten the plan to strip the monasteries and convents of their wealth to pay for the frivolities of the court. The readings he used in today's sermon were not the usual ones for the first day after Christmas, but he'd prayed, as Christ had at Gethsemane, and found that these words needed to be spoken and heard throughout Britain.
The joy of Christmastide be with you all.
In this time of peace, we remember
Our Lord's birth, but I want to speak of his life,
Of Jesus' words and wisdom, his teachings.
Through this we shall learn together by His
Example our duties to our sovereign.
Only three times did our Lord speak of money
And the duty owed to Caesars and Kings.
Two parables further tell us stories
Of thrift, wisdom, and service due to God.
The widow's mite, small, mean, not even worth
The price of a dove to make sacrifice,
Showed that all must give what they have on this earth
To be recognized, nay welcomed, in Heaven.
Our Lord was asked about Roman taxes,
For we all know that taxes abide
With us as closely as the promises
of paradise in the life to come,
He asked for a coin, asked the visage
Minted on the face of it, awaited
The answer of Caesar, no matter the
True name, Augustus, Tiberias,
Caesar, leader of Empire, who claimed he
Was a god walking the earth, ruler
Of vast dominions, though we know even
He, a king, will come to dust until time
Ends and the trumpet calls all who dwelt here
To rise and be judged, that name was given.
And Jesus spoke, "Render unto Caesar
That which belongs to Caesar his coins are
But, He also said
"Render unto God, our Father, the gifts
Of your soul, the tithes from your fields, the best
Of your labor, for prayers and sacrifice
Due to the Almighty, our Creator."
These offerings are to help the poor, hungry,
Those severed from the blessings of the earth.
They warm the cold, comfort the sick, offer
Physic to both body and soul before death.
We owe taxes to our King, thanks for his
Protection and strength, his mind, soul, body
All belong to his people, just as we
Belong to our king and bow to his wisdom.
In his parables, Christ described
Seven wise and seven foolish virgins
Awaiting the bridegroom. The foolish sleep. Lamps blown
Out by the wind while they surfeit on slumber.
The wise virgins keep vigil, trim the wicks,
Refill the oil. Their flames burn brightly, shine
Across the fields, beckoning the bridegroom
To the warmth of his rooms, the heat of his
Bridal bed, the blushes of his new bride.
It is too easy for us to fall asleep.
If we forget to keep the lamps burning,
We need to pray for forgiveness,
Atone by sharing our lot with those lock'd
Away from the world, eyes turned heavenward,
Comtemplating the beauty of God, Christ,
Breathing the wisdom of the Holy Ghost.
In times of plague or famine, when the world
Falls fallow and fear rules us all, these our
Brothers and Sisters in Christ succor all.
Our monasteries and our convents, too,
Illustrate the parable of the talents.
Like the King, they are the wise stewards
Who do not bury their talents to keep
Them safe, but invest that they may grow in
Abundance, allowing enough to be shared.
The King's talents are outward: protection,
War, treaties, peace, kindness to those who most
Deserve mercy and swift, sure justice for
All who turn their backs on the laws of man.
The King cannot try a violator of
God's laws. Canon law is decided by
Canon courts, the abbot of the order,
Or by the most holy Pope, the ultimate
Leader of the Church, my brother bishop.
It is the last of our stories of Jesus
Which is most important today, his wrath,
Fierce and implacable, toward defilers
Of the temple, the moneychangers who
Changed his father's house into a marketplace.
After his triumph, crowds singing, chanting
Hosanna to David's son, it was right
That he visit the temple, leading his
Disciples to the place where God should be
Closest to man, his creation. The prayers
Rise up, the veil separating heaven
And the angels from all earthly cares
Is thin there. His magnificent presence
Surrounds all who enter in reverence.
Yet the moneychangers, who take Caesar's
Gelt and transform it to temple coins,
Hawk their services; the farmers who
Raise animals for sacrifice, cry out
Their wares, voices jangling and disturbing
The hush of contemplation.
It was right that Christ whipped them away.
Defiling the Lord's temple, or convent,
Monastery, cathedral, or church is
Not to be borne.
The gentlest example is Zaccheus,
Whose story is found in Matthew's gospel.
He was humble enough to hide himself
In a tree to listen to Jesus' words.
He was humble enough to hear and know
He had wronged those from whom he'd taken more
Than they owed to Rome and profited himself.
If you take, you must return twice over
To him you have wronged, so says the law.
But Zaccheus promised twice that, to clear
The debt not just with man, but with God.
Any person, be he priest or merchant,
Soldier, journeyman, beggar, or even king,
Who takes from God to give coin to Caesar
Must indeed repay, either in this life
Or in the next, not just twice or thrice, but
Four times over. Purgatory will last
Four times as long, should the debt await
Repayment until after death. The grave
Will not open for judgement until all
Is made right in God's sight.
My children, I know you have given your
Widow's mite to the church, that you flinch
At the thought of moneychangers crying
Out for usury in the temple of God.
You, my brothers and sisters in orders,
Invest your talents for the profit of
The Master, doubling their number and so
Are called good and faithful servants in Christ.
You are wise virgins, keeping the wicks trimmed,
The oil filled, so that the bridegroom may come
Home to warmth and solace
In our Holy Easter week, we will all
Remember Christ entering his city
Triumphant, yet He also abased himself
Before his disciples, washing their feet
As He will clean our sins away. That week
Is when He gives us the gift of his most
Precious body and blood in bread and wine
And in torment on the cross so all may rise.
Now Christ is merely a babe nursed by Mary,
Protected by Joseph from Herod's men,
Venerated by the Angels of God.
In the week to come, kings will kneel before
His majesty, offering precious gifts.
This baby, weak as any child among
us today, will one day become a man,
Baptised by John, recognized by God
As His true son through the Holy Ghost.
We trust that good King Henry, second of
That name and his lady Queen Eleanor,
Whose Amazons helped conquer Jerusalem,
Will remain good and faithful rulers, strong
To our enemies, yet humble in Christ.
Beckett called the faithful, to bow their heads in prayer for the forgiveness of God and His blessings on their king and his kingdom.
Henry heard reports. Becket, once his friend, continued to defy him, despite Henry's mercy in allowing him to return to England. He ate his Christmas feasts thinking all the while of his old friend, and the words he spoke, the clear attack on his plan to use the monasteries to fund the kingdom.
When supper ended, Henry called his closest knights to him, and they drank burned and sweetened brandywine. In his cups he said, "What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?"
Four knights stayed after the King took his leave and, after discussing his words, left the following day for Canterbury.