St. Thomas Becket | Fritz Bauerschmidt

A reflection for December 29: St. Thomas Becket

by Fritz Bauerschmidt

Thomas Becket was the kind of ambitious politician that is all too familiar to most of us; one who knows whom he needs to curry favor with and whose needs and concerns he can safely ignore. In his day, the 12th century, such ambitions were often linked to career in the Church, so Becket entered the lower ranks of the clergy, even though he did not seem to be a person of much faith. He eventually proved himself a useful servant of the English king, Henry II—so useful, in fact, that Henry arranged for him to become Archbishop of Canterbury, presuming that he would continue to serve the King’s interests first and the Church’s second.

But something changed in Becket when he became a bishop; his loyalties and priorities seemed to shift and he began to defend the Church against the King, much to the King’s annoyance. Some other ambitious men thought they could curry favor with the King by eliminating Becket, so they killed him as he prayed before the altar in Canterbury Cathedral.
In some ways, the story of Becket is a disheartening story of human ambition and power struggles. But it is also the story of God’s power to change our hearts and to reshape and reconfigure our priorities. At Christmas we celebrate God’s becoming flesh in a world of ambition and power, and Thomas Becket is a sign of how that incarnation can remake even the most worldly and ambitious of hearts through faith. 

Prayer: Almighty God, your grace can change the most hardened of hearts; may the prayers and example of Thomas Becket inspire us to serve your above all others. Amen.