HOMILY WEEK 34 03 – Year II
Worship and Witness:
Optional Memorial of St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr
(Rev 15:1-4; Ps 98; Lk 21:12-19)
During this last week of the liturgical year, the readings continue an apocalyptic theme, and present us with two scenes – a heavenly one and an earthly one and the connection between the two.
These two scenes invite us to both worship God with joy, and witness to Jesus with our lives and perseverance.
In the first reading, the heavenly scene, we are invited to worship God with all our being, in gratitude for who God is and what God has done through the ministry of the Lamb. Whereas victory usually is associated with force, violence and death, this “lion of Judah” is a lamb who was slain, who triumphed over evil and death by dying, and transformed death into resurrection and new life for us.
In the gospel, we return to earth and are called to witness to our faith in God’s love, in Jesus the Lamb, even to the point of suffering and persecution for the sake of the gospel. We are to persevere and show endurance to the end, to live Calvary in slow motion.
The Responsorial Psalm returns us to the call to worship, and to do so with joy, awe and gratitude for what God has done among us, faithful to God’s promise. We are to sing a new song to the Lord.
So, there we have it – in response to God’s unconditional love for all of humanity, revealed to us by Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, we are to join with the heavenly choirs in singing God’s praise, and find the strength to witness to that love, even if it means suffering and persecution.
Someone who did this exceptionally well is St. Marguerite d’Youville, foundress of the Grey Nuns in Quebec. Since 1846, the Oblates and the Grey Nuns were the ones who evangelized most of western and northern Canada. Having ministered with many Grey Nuns, I feel a deep connection to St. Marguerite. After her alcoholic and abusive husband died, and the death of two of her children, out of her deep faith and love for God, Marguerite gave herself to works of charity, witnessing to God’s love by starting hospitals and caring for the poor. As the sisters wore grey habits and worked often with drunks, they were slandered at times by the populace and called “Les Soeurs Grise” which in French means the “tipsy sisters.” Undaunted by persecution and misfortune, such as a fire which destroyed one hospital, Marguerite showed endurance and perseverance against all odds, attracted other women to join her, and founded the Grey Nuns. In 1991, she was declared a saint of the universal church. She was one who worshipped God with her whole being, and witnessed to Jesus through suffering and persecution.
Today the Church offers us the option of honoring St. Clement I, someone who took an active role in seeking reconciliation in the early Church. Pope Clement I is recognized as third in succession to Peter. Other than the fact that he lived in the 1st century, little is known about his life or death. Tradition suggests Clement was a contemporary of Peter and Paul, perhaps a former slave of the imperial court. He was martyred in exile about AD 99. Clement’s fame rests in a letter he wrote to the Church of Corinth when Christians there revolted against their leaders. Intervening as bishop of Rome, he clearly expected obedience, an attitude that demonstrates the primacy of Rome at an early date.
The Eucharist is our greatest prayer and way to worship God. May our celebration empower us to witness to Jesus even to the point of suffering and persecution, as did Saints Clement and Marguerite d’Youville.