Thursday, 3 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in our Scripture readings today, we heard about the call for all of us as Christians to be dedicated to God and to put our trust in Him for everything we do in life, to listen to Him and to follow Him wholeheartedly. We should not allow ourselves to be tempted and swayed by human ambition, pride and desires, but instead, allow ourselves to be led and guided by God.

In our first reading today, the Lord reminds us through His Apostle St. Paul, that for all the great wisdom, intellect, power and ability we have in the world, all of these are nothing and insignificant in the presence of God, and if we are to boast, as St. Paul said, let us all boast of the Lord and not of ourselves and our own abilities. And St. Paul mentioned in that same passage, his own name, that of Apollos as well as Cephas, the Aramaic name for St. Peter the Apostle, the leader of all the faithful.

This was because contextually, in the communities of the Christian faithful, there had been intense divisions at the time, especially within the Church in Corinth, to which St. Paul addressed this Epistle, in which segments of the community began to side with certain factions proclaiming that they were for St. Paul, and others were for Apollos, while yet others were proclaiming for Cephas, St. Peter.

St. Paul was the famous preacher and evangeliser who travelled extensively all across the Mediterranean region, establishing the communities of the faithful in many places and was known as the Apostle to the Gentiles for his efforts and commitment, while Apollos was a charismatic Jewish convert to the Christian faith, who gained large following due to his charism, and St. Peter was the leader of the Apostles and the appointed Vicar of Christ. These figures became the rallying points around which the segments of the Christian faithful coalesced around. All of these factions and divisions among the faithful led to the fracturing of the Church unity and the confusions it caused in the Christian community.

St. Paul therefore asked all the faithful to avoid dwelling in human desires, the desires and ambition for power, and to avoid using human and worldly wisdom and understanding to live their faith in God. Instead, all the faithful should trust in God, put their faith and listen to Him. It is just like what we all heard in our Gospel passage today, as we heard the account of the calling of the first Apostles, the fishermen of the lake of Galilee, namely, St. Peter and his brother St. Andrew, as well as the two sons of Zebedee, St. James and St. John.

At that time, St. Peter and others were fishing in the lake without result even after much efforts overnight. But the Lord told them all to put out into the deep waters, and as soon as they followed His instructions, they gained so much fish that the whole boat could not take the great weight of the fishes caught. St. Peter then immediately recognised that Jesus was no mere ordinary Man, but a great and Holy One of God and trembled before Him, knowing that he was unworthy and a sinner.

Then the Lord called on all of them to follow Him, and which they did, abandoning their boats, following Him to be the ‘fishers of men’. Through this, they would gather for the Lord, the ‘fishes’ representing mankind, to the Church, represented by the boat, and therefore into salvation and eternal life in God. This is the mission which God has entrusted to His Apostles and disciples, and which He also entrusted to all of us in His Great Commission, ‘Go forth and make disciples of all the nations!’

Through all of these God is calling on each and every one of us to be centred and focused on Him, and Him alone, not to trust in our own strength and power, but rather, doing our works through our strength and power drawing from God and His strength. And by drawing on strength from Him, then we are called to go out and ‘put into the deep waters’ which means that we need to get out of our comfort zone and go forth, be genuine and good Christians, to inspire and call others to be good Christians on their own accord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we look forward into how we are to live our lives as good and dedicated Christians, and also rejecting the temptations of human desires and worldly glories, let us all look at our holy predecessor, Pope St. Gregory the Great, the saint and holy Pope whose feast we are celebrating today with great joy, in memory of the great contributions and efforts he had made for the greater glory of God and His Church.

Pope St. Gregory the Great reigned as Pope at a time when the Church was encountering difficulties from both the religious spectre as well as from the secular world, as at that time, not only that secular authorities were falling apart as the remnants of the authority and power of the Roman Emperors ruling from Constantinople began to fall apart and Rome came under threat from foreign invaders, but the discipline in the Church and among the members of the clergy had grown lax.

Pope St. Gregory the Great, an experienced administrator for his days before being a priest and monk, and Pope, did a lot of effort to reform the Church and the administration of both the faithful community as well as the secular governance over the region of Rome and beyond. He improved the livelihood of the people and the governance, improved various aspects of Church life and also the discipline in the Church and among the members of the faithful.

Pope St. Gregory the Great was also remembered for his efforts in spreading the Gospel message and convert more and more souls to the Lord. He sent missionaries to Germany and also England, most famously in sending the missionary St. Augustine of Canterbury to be the first Bishop of Canterbury and therefore laying the strong foundation of the Church in England, as well as in other parts of Christendom.

Of course, we also remember his efforts for what would come to be known by his name, as the Gregorian Chant, in his efforts in standardising Church music and improving its quality, which in time, would come to be a vast multitude of hymns and chants that bring great glory to God and bring even more people ever closer to God by the sacredness of the wonderful hymns and chants.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all follow in the faith and commitment of Pope St. Gregory the Great, in our faith and life that each and every one of us may become ever more faithful in everything we do, that we may put God at the centre of our life and existence. Let us follow his example and dedicate ourselves to the greater glory of God and His Church. May the Lord help us and be with us, and guide us through this journey of faith through life. Amen.

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