Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Abbot and Mass of our Lady)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard the fact on the lack of faith that mankind has in the Lord. Mankind has grown feeble in the faith that they have in God, preferring their own reasoning, their own ideas and their own wisdom rather than putting their trust and faith in the One and True God. They refused to believe and hardened their hearts against God.
Yes, that was what the Sadducees had done, when they opposed Jesus and tried to test and challenge Him with questions about the resurrection of the dead. The Sadducees are the moral and theological opposite of the zealous Pharisees, being influential Jews that in our modern terms can be equated as being secular in nature, even to the point of atheism, that is disbelief in the presence of the divine God.
They refused to believe in anything spiritual and otherworldly, preferring to trust in their own human senses and judgment. They did not believe in angels, in saints, and in the resurrection of the dead, and believe indeed that their lives in this world is to be savoured in its entirety, that they ought not to worry about the life that is to come. They thought of death as the end of our lives, a definitive end.
But to us, brothers and sisters in Christ, we know and believe that death is not the end of all things. Indeed, death marks the beginning of a new and eternal life in God. That is proven by none other than Jesus Himself, the One who rose from the dead in glory, and in the process, gaining mankind to Himself, and releasing them from the slavery of sin, providing them with an exit from death’s grasp.
For death is the fate of us all mankind, who had disobeyed the Lord and went astray from His laws and His precepts. Beginning from Adam and Eve, our first ancestors, mankind had been trapped in the cycle of death. Death is the punishment for disobedience, for our waywardness have led us away from God and His love. But the Lord loves us so much, that He would not let death have the final word.
He sent deliverance into this world, pretty much as what He had done as witnessed in our first reading, from the Book of the Maccabees, which retells the story of how a people was saved from the hands of evil. The forces of the world struck against the faithful ones of the Lord, through the hands of the Greek king, Antiochus Epiphanes. And yet, the Lord raised up the Maccabees family, beginning with Judas, who led the people in a sort of holy war, in order to preserve their purity and sanctity against the forces of evil arrayed against them.
They rose up, cast out the forces of the Greeks, and regained their righteous freedom. And in the same way therefore, the Lord has come as the source of deliverance for all, through Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh. He led the salvation of all and dealt the forces of evil a final defeat, and gained a final victory for all creations. And this, most importantly will not happen, without resurrection.
For resurrection is the Lord’s answer to death, and therefore, is His answer to sin, and to evil that had engulfed our world, and all of us, that through the resurrection of Jesus, which happened on the Easter Sunday, three days after His death on the cross, the sovereignty and power that death has over us is cast down. Without the resurrection, there is no hope for all of us. With it, and the with the Risen Christ, we have a new hope, that at the end of our journeys in this world, if we keep faith in God and attach ourselves to His ways, we will be saved.
Today, we celebrate the feast of Pope St. Clement I, one of the early and direct successor of St. Peter the Apostle as the leader of the entire Universal Church. He was also a holy martyr and a dedicated leader of the faithful, who dedicated his life in the complete service to the Lord. And in him today, we rejoice. That is because, if not Pope St. Clement I’s death in holy martyrdom would have been in vain, if there is no life after death.
Pope St. Clement I was one of the great early leaders of the Church, leading the faithful through difficult times, both against external oppositions and challenges, as well as internal disputes and rivalries. Pope St. Clement I wrote extensively many letters to the Universal Church, giving them encouragement and directions to keep strong and true the faith in God. And the core of that faith in God is the faith in the resurrection, for it is from the resurrection that our Faith is born.
Pope St. Clement I faithfully served the people of God, and he followed them even into custody, prison, and persecution. He was tortured by the Roman authorities who persecuted Christians, sent him into exile, and finally he was executed by drowning. Pope St. Clement I did not back down, and he kept his faith to the end, the faith in the Risen Lord. For he knew that there is hope in the Risen Christ, and through his hard works he had been rewarded with life eternal in the fullness of the glory of God.
St. Columban is another saint whom we commemorate today. He was an abbot and a pious worker of the faith who travelled across different areas and territories for many years, spreading the Good News and the teachings about the faith in those areas. St. Columban is a great missionary, who went around many areas of Western Europe, converting many to the cause of Christ, and bringing people closer to the salvation in the Risen Lord.
St. Columban worked hard and laboured for the faith, across the modern day France, and went on to many parts of Celtic Europe in the British islands. St. Columban worked in the islands and spread zealously the word of God as far as Ireland, where he spent significant amount of time in. He led the example for many to follow a dedicated religious life to God, giving of oneself in prayerful service to God and the fellow men.
Both the saints we celebrate today, in their own ways, proclaim the greatness of the Lord and testify for His glorious resurrection, through which the salvation of this world came about, delivering many souls from their intended path towards doom and eternal death. Through the hard works of these two saints therefore, the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is therefore brought even closer to us, as Pope St. Clement I himself showed through his martyrdom, how he did not fear the suffering at the hands of men nor death, because he knew that, as St. Columban and all the other saints and holy men and women knew, that the glory of God and all the rewards are awaiting us at the other end of the tough road, if they remain faithful to the end.
We are shown how, death did not have the final say. For Jesus had made His appearance and through His own death, He had definitively proven to the entire creation, that the One with all the authority and power over life and death is God, and just as God did not intend us for death, for we have been made for perfection, so for those who remain true to His ways, God will grant everlasting life, if we will just believe, and keep on strongly to that faith. Amen.