Wednesday, 23 November 2022 : 34th 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 as we listened to the words of the Scriptures all of us are presented with the reality of being Christians in that we may face hardships, persecutions, and even may lose our lives in the midst of us living our lives faithfully as Christians. Each one of us are reminded that while persecutions and sufferings may be in our path, and we may have to endure them for a while, there is no path for those who continue to refuse to believe in God and those who persecute His people, as those will end up being crushed and defeated by the triumphant Lord, Our God and our Saviour, Who will come again at the end of time, at the time of His choosing, to gather us all who are faithful to Him, and cast into the eternal darkness and destruction, all those who rejected Him to the very end.

In our first reading today, we heard of the story from the Book of Revelations of St. John the Apostle, continuing the account of the past two weeks as we continue to progress through the final days of the current liturgical year, as a reminder for all of us how things will turn out eventually in the end. St. John witnessed in his heavenly vision the Seven Angels of God bearing the last and final plagues that will rise against those who are wicked and all those who continue to side with Satan and the other wicked ones, and continue to rebel against Him. Those who are righteous will be remembered by God, and the moment of His coming will be close with all the manifestation of God’s wrath, as He will come as He has promised, to gather each and every one of us who remain faithful to Him, the living and the dead, to rise together with Him into a new life and existence, totally and completely free from the bondage to sin and evil.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus told His disciples of all the things that they would experience going forward, as they continued to carry on their ministries, missions and vocations, as His Apostles, disciples, servants and missionaries among the peoples of various nations. He presented to them frankly and truthfully of how the world that had rejected Him and persecuted Him would likely persecute them as well. Just as much as they would indeed enjoy rich fruits of their efforts in mission and evangelisation, causing countless souls and people to come to know the Lord and be saved, they also had to contend against the many challenges, persecutions and rejections from all those who refused and would refuse to believe in the Lord and His truth.

And all of those things indeed came true as the early Church and Christians came under intense persecution firstly from the Jewish authorities, the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council, and then later on from the local governors and eventually the Roman state and government itself, resulting in many years, decades and centuries of terrible persecutions against the Church and all Christians. And even three centuries later, when the Christian persecutions were ended and the faith was finally tolerated and accepted, persecutions, challenges, trials and rejections still continued to happen, from time to time, again and again throughout the past two millennia of the history of the Church and its presence and works in our world, even right to the present day.

Throughout the world, there are still various kinds of difficulties, challenges and persecutions facing the people of God all over, as they face hardships and trials just for even being believers of Christ and for showing their faith in Him. Many had to practice their faith in secret, and many were, and are still suffering daily, even in prison and torture for their continued belief and faith in the Lord, their God and their Saviour. Yet, many of them remained steady and firm in their faith, and they did not give up despite the various pressures, coercions and efforts to make them turn away from their faith and betray the Lord. And still in other places, while it is alright to practice the Christian faith, Christians are facing challenges, trials and also oppositions to their very beliefs and way of life, and many are forced to choose between their faith and the fashionable ways and thoughts of the current world.

Today, the Church celebrates the feast of two great saints whose lives ought to inspire us all in how we ought to live our lives with faith, namely that of Pope St. Clement I, one of the earliest Popes and Vicars of Christ, a holy martyr of the faith, and also St. Columban, a renowned and holy Abbot, both of whom were dedicated to God in their own unique ways, and whose lives and actions showed great deal of faith and commitment to God. Both of them can show us what it truly means to be Christians, to live our lives worthily of Him in all of our words, actions and deeds, that we may indeed come ever closer to the Lord and find our way to Him, to His grace, love, salvation and eventually, eternal life with Him in true happiness and joy.

Pope St. Clement I was the successor of St. Peter through St. Linus and St. Anacletus, as the fourth Pope, Vicar of Christ, Bishop of Rome and therefore the leader of the Universal Church. He led the Church through the difficult years of persecutions and hardships, particularly during an especially bitter era of persecution under the Roman Emperor Domitian. Christians throughout the Roman Empire were persecuted for their faith, and many perished as martyrs in refusing to obey and worship the Roman Emperor as a divinity and betraying their one true God, Jesus Christ, their Lord and Saviour. Amidst all those challenges, Pope St. Clement I led the Church, which grew gradually despite the hardships and martyrdoms, and he was well known for his many letters or Epistles, helping to strengthen the Church and keeping all the faithful together and united in Christ. Eventually, this holy man of God himself perished in the persecutions, but he remained faithful to the very end.

Meanwhile St. Columban lived at a different era when Christians were already free to practice their faith and Christianity was in fact already the dominant faith throughout the region. However, there were a lot of lapses and corrupt practices within the Church in various places, which St. Columban in his works and efforts as a missionary and then as an Abbot, tried hard to help to reform the Church and excise the excesses of worldly attachments and impurities from the Christian faith, the Church and the faithful people of God. He had to go up against powerful people, even the leaders of the Church in the region of Gaul, now France, where he worked and ministered in. Yet, despite all the opposition and hardships, St. Columban remained committed to his mission to the very end, and many were converted through his efforts.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we can see from the examples set by those two saints, let us all therefore renew our own commitment to live our lives truly worthily as Christians, in dedicating our works, efforts, our every words, actions and deeds to bring glory to God. Let us all therefore continue to work hard in doing the will of God, and being vigilant that whenever is the Lord’s second coming, we will always be ready to welcome Him into this world, and receive from Him the crown of eternal glory, and to enjoy forever the inheritance and true joy that He has always intended for us, His beloved children and people, the jewels and pinnacle of His creation. May God bless us always, and may He continue to guide us in our journey of faith through life, always and forevermore. Amen.

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