Saint Clement of Rome (35-99 AD)
Feast Day: November 23
From the first, faith has been God’s means of justifying men
God’s blessing must be our objective, and the way to win it our study. Search the records of ancient times. Why was our father Abraham blessed? Was it not because his upright and straightforward conduct was inspired by faith? As for Isaac’s faith, it was so strong that, assured of the outcome, he willingly allowed himself to be offered in sacrifice. Jacob had the humility to leave his native land on account of his brother, and go and serve Laban. He was given the twelve tribes of Israel.
Honest reflection upon each of these examples will make us realize the magnitude of God’s gifts. All the priests and levites who served the altar of God were descended from Jacob. The manhood of the Lord Jesus derived from him. Through the tribe of Judah, kings, princes and rulers sprang from him. Nor are his other tribes without their honor, for God promised Abraham: Your descendants shall be as the stars of heaven.
It is obvious, therefore, that none of these owed their honor and exaltation to themselves, or to their own labors, or to their deeds of virtue. No; they owed everything to God’s will. So likewise with us, who by his will are called in Christ Jesus. We are not justified by our wisdom, intelligence, piety, or by any action of ours, however holy, but by faith, the one means by which God has justified men from the beginning. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
What must we do then, brothers? Give up good works? Stop practicing Christian love? God forbid! We must be ready and eager for every opportunity to do good, and put our whole heart into it. Even the Creator and Lord of the universe rejoices in his works. By his supreme power he set the heavens in their place; by his infinite wisdom he gave them their order. He separated the land from the waters surrounding it and made his own will its firm foundation. By his command he brought to life the beasts that roam the earth. He created the sea and all its living creatures, and then by his power set bounds to it. Finally, with his own holy and undefiled hands, he formed man, the highest and most intelligent of his creatures, the copy of his own image. Let us make man, God said, in our image and likeness. And God made man, male and female he made them. Then, when he had finished making all his creatures, God gave them his approval and blessing: Increase and multiply, he charged them.
We must recognize, therefore, that all upright men have been graced by good works, and that even the Lord himself took delight in the glory his works gave him. This should inspire us with a resolute determination to do his will and make us put our whole strength into the work of living a Christian life.
The preservation of unity
Beloved, Jesus Christ is our salvation, he is the high priest through whom we present our offerings and the helper who supports us in our weakness. Through him our gaze penetrates the heights of heaven and we see as in a mirror, the most holy face of God. Through Christ the eyes of our hearts are opened, and our weak and clouded understanding reaches up toward the light. Through him the Lord God willed that we should taste eternal knowledge, for Christ is the radiance of God’s glory, and as much greater than the angels as the name God has given him is superior to theirs.
So then, my brothers, let us do battle with all our might under his unerring command. Think of the men serving under our military commanders. How well disciplined they are! How readily and submissively they carry out orders! Not everyone can be a prefect, a tribune, a centurion, or a captain of fifty, but each man in his own rank executes the orders of the emperor and the officers in command. The great cannot exist without those of humble condition, nor can those of humble condition exist without the great. Always it is the harmonious working together of its various parts that insures the well-being of the whole. Take our own body as an example: The head is helpless without the feet; and the feet can do nothing without the heart. Even our least important members are useful and necessary to the whole body, and all work together for its well-being in harmonious subordination.
Let us, then, preserve the unity of the body that we form in Christ Jesus, and let everyone give his neighbor the deference to which his particular gifts entitle him. Let the strong care for the weak and the weak respect the strong. Let the wealthy assist the poor and the poor man thank God for giving him someone to supply his needs. The wise man should show his wisdom not by his eloquence but by good works; the humble man should not proclaim his own humility, but leave others to do so; nor must the man who preserves his chastity ever boast of it, but recognize that the ability to control his desires has been given him by another.
Think, my brothers, of how we first came into being, of what we were at the first moment of our existence. Think of the dark tomb out of which our Creator brought us into his world where he had his gifts prepared for us even before we were born. All this we owe to him and for everything we must give him thanks. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Let us follow the way of truth
Let us put on the unity of mind, thinking humble thoughts, exercising self-control, keeping ourselves far from all backbiting and slander, being righteous in deed, and not in word only. Scripture says: He who says much hears much in his own turn. Or does the easy talker think that he is righteous?
It is our duty then to be eager to do good, for everything is from God. He warns us: See, the Lord is coming, and the reward he brings is before him, for paying each according to his work. He urges us, who believe in him with all our heart, not to be idle or careless in any good work. Our boasting and our confidence must rest on him. Let us be subject to his will. Let us look carefully at the whole host of his angels; they stand ready and serve his will. Scripture says: Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him, and a thousand thousand served him, and cried out: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole creation is full of his glory.
We, too, dutifully gathered together in unity of mind, should cry out to him continuously as with one voice so as to share in his great and glorious promises. It is written: Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, man’s heart has not conceived, what great things have been prepared for those who wait for him.
Beloved, how blessed, how wonderful, are God’s gifts! Life with immortality, glory with righteousness, truth with confidence, self-control with holiness: all these are the gifts that fall within our understanding. What then are those gifts that are in store for those who wait for him? Only the most holy Creator and Father of the ages knows their greatness and their splendor.
We should then strive with the greatest zeal to be found among the number of those who await him, so that we may share in the promised gifts. How will this be, beloved? If our mind is fixed on God through faith, if we are diligent in seeking what is pleasing and acceptable to him, if we fulfill what is according to his blameless will and follow the way of truth, casting away from ourselves all that is unholy.
Let us fix our attention on the blood of Christ and recognize how precious it is to God his Father, since it was shed for our salvation and brought the grace of repentance to all the world.
If we review the various ages of history, we will see that in every generation the Lord has offered the opportunity of repentance to any who were willing to turn to him. When Noah preached God’s message of repentance, all who listened to him were saved. Jonah told the Ninevites they were going to be destroyed, but when they repented, their prayers gained God’s forgiveness for their sins, and they were saved, even though they were not of God’s people.
Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the ministers of God’s grace have spoken of repentance; indeed, the Master of the whole universe himself spoke of repentance with an oath: As I live, says the Lord, I do not wish the death of the sinner but his repentance. He added this evidence of his goodness: House of Israel, repent of your wickedness. Tell the sons of my people: If their sins should reach from earth to heaven, if they are brighter than scarlet and blacker than sackcloth, you need only turn to me with your whole heart and say, “Father”, and I will listen to you as a holy people.
In other words, God wanted all his beloved ones to have the opportunity to repent and he confirmed this desire by his own almighty will. That is why we should obey his sovereign and glorious will and prayerfully entreat his mercy and kindness. We should be suppliant before him and turn to his compassion, rejecting empty works and quarreling and jealousy which only lead to death.
Brothers, we should be humble in mind, putting aside all arrogance, pride and foolish anger. Rather, we should act in accordance with the Scriptures, as the Holy Spirit says: The wise man must not glory in his wisdom nor the strong man in his strength nor the rich man in his riches. Rather, let him who glories glory in the Lord by seeking him and doing what is right and just. Recall especially what the Lord Jesus said when he taught gentleness and forbearance. Be merciful, he said, so that you may have mercy shown to you. Forgive, so that you may be forgiven. As you treat others, so you will be treated. As you give, so you will receive. As you judge, so you will be judged. As you are kind to others, so you will be treated kindly. The measure of your giving will be the measure of your receiving.
Let these commandments and precepts strengthen us to live in humble obedience to his sacred words. As Scripture asks: Whom shall I look upon with favor except the humble, peaceful man who trembles at my words?
Sharing then in the heritage of so many vast and glorious achievements, let us hasten toward the goal of peace, set before us from the beginning. Let us keep our eyes firmly fixed on the Father and Creator of the whole universe, and hold fast to his splendid and transcendent gifts of peace and all his blessings.