Saturday, 23 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Abbots or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all reminded by God through His words in the Scriptures not to put our trust in any worldly things or dependencies, but instead put our whole trust in the Lord our God alone. If we place our trust in the world, all the glories, power and wealth it can give us, then in the end, what we will face is just disappointment and regret as our Scripture passages today should remind us of the truth.

In our first reading today, we heard the story of the Greek Seleucid king, Antiochus IV Epiphanes in continuation of the narrative of this week from the Book of the Maccabees. King Antiochus IV was the same king who ordered all the people in his whole Empire including the descendants of Israel in Judea to abandon their laws and customs, their faith and worship of God for the pagan worship of the Greek gods, and enforced Greek customs and ways on them.

And for that purpose and end, the king persecuted many of those who remained faithful to their dedication and faith in God, and those who refused to abandon their faith were put to great suffering and many even met death in martyrdom. That was the beginning of the Maccabean Revolt in which the Maccabees, the sons of Mattathias, one of the faithful Jew, rose up against the king in revolt, seeking to free themselves from his tyranny.

In today’s first reading then, we heard of the great campaign carried out by king Antiochus IV as he went to the land of Persia and Media to reclaim parts of the kingdom which once belonged to his predecessors but had been lost in the past decades. We can see from all these that king Antiochus IV was a stubborn and ambitious man, who sought above all the glory of the world, power and majesty above everything else that he was willing to go against God.

Yet, as we have heard and witnessed from history, for all of his pursuits and aims for greatness, king Antiochus IV failed in all of his efforts, as not only that his religious policies and oppressions led to rebellions particularly in the lands of the Jewish people, but he also failed terribly in his efforts to reclaim the lost lands of his predecessors and his plans to gain the wealth and taxes from those lands. And he ended up dying and meeting his end in regret and sorrow.

This is then related to what we have also heard from the Gospels today, in which we heard of the exchange and debate between the Lord Jesus and the group called the Sadducees. The Sadducees were one of the major and very influential groups at the time of Jesus, in contrast to the Pharisees. While the Pharisees were those who were very spiritual and particular of the commandments and the Law of God, the Sadducees on the other hand were like the ‘secular’ party, who did not believe in many of the tenets of the Law.

The Sadducees did not believe in Angels and spiritual things, and neither did they believe in the resurrection from the dead. To them, the life in this world as they enjoyed was the ideal and death was nothing more or less than the end of all the joy and happiness. This fits the personality of the Sadducees perfectly as they were men of this world, those with positions of power and close connections to the king and members of the ruling class.

As they debated and asked the Lord with regards to whether the woman who had seven brothers as husbands had any one of them as her husband in the afterlife, they were in fact thinking in a worldly manner, thinking and wondering if they could retain the possessions, wealth and things in this world as how they have enjoyed it even to the afterlife. They could not bear to part with all of that they have gained and enjoyed in life, just as how king Antiochus IV himself also behaved.

But all of these had led many among us mankind into our downfall as they made us to be greedy and obsessed with all the worldly concerns and things that often distract us, mislead us and bring us further and further away from the path towards God and His salvation. And many of us also failed to realise until it was too late, that none of these things will last forever, and the joy and happiness they provided were merely temporary and not true joy, unlike what God can give to all of us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all instead as Christians seek for the true joy and happiness in God, by learning from the examples of our holy predecessors in faith, the two saints whose feasts we are celebrating on this very day, namely that of Pope St. Clement I and St. Columban the Abbot. Both of them had led holy and wonderful lives committed to God, which we ourselves can imitate and follow in our own lives. All of us should look up to the examples of these two holy men for inspiration.

Pope St. Clement I was one of the earliest successors of St. Peter as the Vicar of Christ and the Pope of the Church, remembered for his great zeal and faith, for his tireless dedication to build and maintain the Church through difficult years of persecution and struggles. He was known for his many letters and Epistles to the various parts of the Church through which he reminded the faithful to keep their faith strongly in God and to persevere through the challenges and trials that they had to face.

And like the other early Church fathers and the Apostles, Pope St. Clement I had to suffer persecution as well, as it was told that he was arrested and put into exile, and he was also put into hard labour as part of his imprisonment and suffering. In the end, Pope St. Clement I was martyred, but he met his death with joy, unlike king Antiochus IV who met it with regret and the Sadducees who feared it, because Pope St. Clement I knew that God was with him, and he would receive the gift of eternal life and glory from Him.

Meanwhile, St. Columban the Abbot was a famous and pious Irish missionary who was a great missionary and abbot, who helped to strengthen the foundations of the Church and also monastic practices of the Church of his time, as he helped in the establishment of many monasteries and places that eventually attracted many monks and people who wanted to serve the Lord through prayer. St. Columban was remembered for his great dedication to God, his enduring love and faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all look upon the examples which these two holy men had set for us. Let us all follow in their footsteps and grow in our own faith and love for God. May the Lord continue to guide us through life, and may He help us to remain faithful to Him and to love Him with ever greater devotion from now on so that we may look beyond earthly things and desires, and seek only His eternal kingdom and glory. May God bless us all and our good works for His sake, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 23 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Abbots or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Luke 20 : 27-40

At that time, then some Sadducees arrived. These people claim that there is no resurrection, and they asked Jesus this question, “Master, in the Law Moses told us, ‘If anyone dies leaving a wife but no children, his brother must take the wife, and any child born to them will be regarded as the child of the deceased.’”

“Now, there were seven brothers : the first married, but died without children. The second married the woman, but also died childless. And then the third married her, and in this same way all seven died, leaving no children. Last of all the woman died. On the day of the resurrection, to which of them will the woman be a wife? For all seven had her as a wife.”

And Jesus replied, “Taking a husband or a wife is proper to people of this world, but for those who are considered worthy of the world to come, and of resurrection from the dead, there is no more marriage. Besides, they cannot die, for they are like the Angels. They are sons and daughters of God, because they are born of the resurrection.”

“Yes, the dead will be raised, as Moses revealed at the burning bush, when he called the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. For God is God of the living, and not of the dead, for to Him everyone is alive.”

Some teachers of the Law then agreed with Jesus, “Master, You have spoken well.” They did not dare ask Him anything else.

Saturday, 23 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Abbots or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Psalm 9 : 2-3, 4 and 6, 16b and 19

Let my heart give thanks to YHVH, I yearn to proclaim Your marvellous deeds, and rejoice and exult in You; and sing praise to Your Name, o Most High.

For my enemies fell back in retreat, they stumbled and perished before You. You have turned back the nations; You have destroyed the wicked; You have blotted out their names forever.

The feet of the pagans were ensnared by the trap they laid. For the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the poor perish forever.

Saturday, 23 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Abbots or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

1 Maccabees 6 : 1-13

When king Antiochus was making his way through the upper regions of Persia, he received news about Elymais, a city renowned for its wealth in silver and gold. They kept in the wealthy temple of their city golden armour, breastplates and weapons, left there by the Macedonian king, Alexander, the son of Philip, the first sovereign of the Greeks.

So Antiochus went there. But the inhabitants came out armed against him when they learnt of his intention, so his attempt to take the city failed. He had to turn back; and he returned much embittered to Babylon. While he was still in Persia, it was reported to him that the armies sent to Judea had been defeated. They told him that although Lysias had gone with a strong army, he had to flee before the Jews, who had been strengthened with the weapons and the abundant booty taken from the neighbouring armies.

He heard, too, that the Jews had destroyed the abominable idol he had erected on the altar in Jerusalem; and had rebuilt the Temple walls to the same height as before; and had also fortified the city of Beth-zur. When he received this news, he was terrified and deeply upset. He fell sick and became greatly depressed because things had not turned out the way he had planned.

So he remained overcome by this terrible anguish for many days. He felt he was dying, so he called his friends and said to them, “Sleep has fled from my eyes and I am greatly crushed by my anxieties. And I keep on asking why such grief has come upon me – I who was generous and well-loved when in power – and now I am so discouraged.”

“Now I remember the evils I did in Jerusalem, the vessels of gold and silver that I stole, the inhabitants of Judea I ordered to be killed for no reason at all. I now know, that because of this, these misfortunes have come upon me; and I am dying of grief in a strange land.”

Friday, 23 November 2018 : 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, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture reminding us on the importance for us to keep our faith alive in our lives, by listening to what the Lord has reminded each and every one of us today, particularly in what we heard in our Gospel passage today, on the moment when the Lord Jesus drove out the merchants and money changers from the Temple of God.

In that passage, we heard of what the Lord did when He saw all the corruptions and wickedness that were present amidst the people of God, all their corrupt dealings with money and cheating of the Temple visitors and pilgrims, for their own selfish benefits and other corrupt purposes that were totally unbecoming of the place as the location for divine worship and praise.

That is why the Lord chased them all out of the Temple for their blatant wickedness and refusal to follow the Lord’s commandments. And this is actually symbolic of what we need to do with our own lives. The Temple is referring to our own bodies, hearts, minds, and all of our whole beings. That is because God Himself is truly present in us, through His Spirit and the Body and Blood which He has given to us through the Eucharist.

And because God Himself is fully present in us, within us and in our midst, then each and every one of us must be truly exemplary as God’s Holy Temple and House. Otherwise, through our actions, by our disobedience of God’s commandments and by our failure to obey the Lord’s will, through our sins, we are putting wickedness and sin in the midst of this Temple of God, that is our body and being, much like the merchants and money changers that corrupted the Temple of God in Jerusalem.

God loves each and every one of us, brothers and sisters in Christ. And that is why, He is doing so much in order to bring us back to Himself, calling on us to change our ways and to repent from our sins. However, all of the wicked things and evil deeds we perform in our lives are things that have no place in God’s presence. For God is all good, and disobedience through sin is a great obstacle in the midst of our efforts to reach out to God.

Today, we should reflect on our every actions in life, and see if we have truly been faithful to God or whether we have veered off on the way in our journey towards Him, by the many temptations present in this life. We should think and reflect on all these things, and perhaps also take note of the examples shown by two saints, whose feast day we celebrate today, that is of Pope St. Clement I and St. Columban.

Pope St. Clement I was the Pope and leader of the Universal Church during some of its earliest years, as one of the first successors of St. Peter the Apostle, the first Pope. It was told that St. Peter himself consecrated Pope St. Clement I as bishop, and later on, the latter succeeded the second successor of St. Peter as Pope and Bishop of Rome. And Pope St. Clement I was remembered widely throughout the Church at that time and later on, as an influential Church and Apostolic father, the first among many of those who would continue the good works began by the Apostles in the building of the Church.

He wrote extensively to the various Church communities at the time, some of which were preserved as the collective writings of the Church fathers, and he helped to continue the growth and the stabilisation of the Church at the time, and many of the latter Church fathers and communities looked up to the piety and the good examples set by Pope St. Clement I in following Christ. He was martyred during the reign of the Roman Emperor Trajan, during one of the many Christian persecutions.

Today we also celebrate the feast of St. Columban, a holy man and abbot of the Church, who was an Irish missionary noted for his great many works among the regions of what is now France and Italy, establishing many monasteries and communities in those regions. At the same time, St. Columban also helped to evangelise the faith among the people, especially among those who have not followed the Lord in the right manner, affected by fallacies and heresies of the time.

St. Columban inspired many people through his works, and by his monastic rule, the Rule of St. Columban, mirroring the more famous Rule of St. Benedict, many people turned towards God and reorientate their lives towards God through prayer and upright life. Some of them joined the monasteries St. Columban founded, and many others became missionaries as how St. Columban was.

Today, by looking upon the examples set by these two holy and devoted servants of God, Pope St. Clement I and St. Columban, let us all turn towards God with a renewed love and faith for Him, and let us always be mindful, that we are all the Temples and Houses of God’s Holy and Real Presence, and as such, we should strive to be holy and free from sin, and repent from those sins if we have indeed fallen into the temptations and sins.

May God be with us all in this journey, and may we continue to devote ourselves and become ever closer to Him, day after day, in our every lives. May God bless us all and our good endeavours, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 23 November 2018 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr and St. Columban, Abbot (Gospel Reading)

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

Luke 19 : 45-48

At that time, Jesus entered the Temple area and began to drive out the merchants. And He said to them, “God says in the Scriptures, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have turned it into a den of robbers!'”

Jesus was teaching every day in the Temple. The chief priests and teachers of the Law wanted to kill Him, and the elders of the Jews as well, but they were unable to do anything, for all the people were listening to Him and hanging on His words.

Friday, 23 November 2018 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr and St. Columban, Abbot (Psalm)

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

Psalm 118 : 14, 24, 72, 103, 111, 131

I delight in following Your laws, more so than in all riches.

Your laws are my delight, my counsellors who uphold me.

Your law is more precious to me than heaps of silver and gold.

How sweet are Your promises to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Your statutes are my heritage forever, they are the joy of my heart.

I gasp in ardent yearning for Your commandments that I love.