Thursday, 23 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Abbots)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we continued with the discourse of the Maccabees rebellion in our first reading today, this time, we heard of how the representatives of the Greek Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes came to Modein, where the Maccabees family resided, and we heard how the family patriarch, Mattathias, firmly stood his ground and refused to obey the commands of the king, for them to abandon their faith in God and give sacrifices to the Greek gods.

As I mentioned in the previous days, the Jewish people were persecuted and were in a great danger because of their faith, which the Greek king wanted to eradicate, and it resulted in many sorrowful cases of those who were martyred, including yesterday’s story of a mother and her seven sons who refused to listen to the king’s commands and persuasions, and they were martyred one by one.

They would rather suffer for a while and then be worthy of God’s everlasting glory, rather than submitting to the king and enjoying a merely temporary respite of false happiness. That was why they resisted the pressure and the temptations to abandon their faith. All of those things however were not easily done. There were many during the time of the Maccabees who apostasised and abandoned their faith, in exchange of worldly safety and pleasures.

In the Gospel today, we heard about the lamentation that the Lord Jesus made about the city of Jerusalem, because He predicted what would happen to that city under the Roman rule just a few decades after Our Lord’s crucifixion. The city of Jerusalem would be destroyed in the year 70 A.D., by the Roman legions who were sent there to put down rebellion by Jewish zealots and hardliners who rose up against the Romans. The Temple of Jerusalem and the entire city were ransacked and toppled.

All of these, ultimately came about because those people believed not in the power of God, but in their own power, and trusted in worldly matters more than their faith in God. If many of the Jews at the time of the Maccabees surrendered to temptation and abandoned their faith in God, then during the time of Jesus, as Our Lord Himself mentioned, the people refused to believe in Him or listen to Him, and they rejected Him.

What is the lesson that all of us should take note of today? It is that we should expect if we remain faithful to the Lord and are active in living our faith as we should be, we may encounter difficulties and challenges from those who do not agree with our faith, just as what happened in the Scripture passages that we heard today.

Now we have to ask ourselves the question, are we willing to suffer and be persecuted for the sake of Our Lord, that for temporary suffering and pain, and yet, because of our faith, we merit the eternal glory and happiness with God? Or do we rather seek temporary respite and happiness, because we are accepted by the world through our rejection and abandonment of our faith?

Today, we celebrate the feast of Pope St. Clement I, one of the first Popes of the Church, as the successor of St. Peter the Apostle as the Bishop of Rome and therefore, as the most preeminent bishop and leader of the entire Church. Pope St. Clement I lived and reigned as Pope just a few decades after the crucifixion and resurrection of Our Lord. He was known to be the first of the Apostolic Fathers, whose writings were highly significant for our faith even though they were not included in the Bible.

Pope St. Clement I wrote extensively and several of his letters and works survived until this very day. He was a very important leader of the early Church, guiding it through the difficult years that alternate between toleration of the Christian faith by the Roman authorities and persecution by the same authorities. He helped to guide the Church through those difficult times, and remained firmly anchored in his faith.

To this very end, he persevered in faith, and remained resolute in standing up to the truth, even amidst difficult times. He of course had the choice to abandon his hard work and enjoy respite from the world, all the persecutions he had to face. Yet, he chose to be with God. This is an example which all of us as Christians should also follow as well. Let us all renew our faith and our commitment to God, in all the things we do.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He bless all of our endeavours. And may all of us draw ever closer to Him, that we will always endure whatever persecution and difficulty that we may encounter on our way to Him. Amen.

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