3 September – Memorial for St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor
St. Gregory (540-590) collected the melodies and plain chant so associated with him that they are now known as Gregorian Chants. He was elected by unanimous acclamation for pope. Incidentally, he was also the first monk to be pope. Before his papacy, he turned his home into a Benedictine monastery, and used his money to build six monasteries in Sicily and one in Rome. He became a missionary to England upon seeing English children being sold in the Roman Forum.
-Patron Saints Index
1 Corinthians 2:1-5
When I came to you, brothers, it was not with any show of oratory or philosophy, but simply to tell you what God had guaranteed. During my stay with you, the only knowledge I claimed to have was about Jesus, and only about him as the crucified Christ. Far from relying on any power of my own, I came among you in great ‘fear and trembling’ and in my speeches and the sermons that I gave, there were none of the arguments that belong to philosophy; only a demonstration of the power of the Spirit. And I did this so that your faith should not depend on human philosophy but on the power of God.
Jesus came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day as he usually did. He stood up to read and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:
The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
for he has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives
and to the blind new sight,
to set the downtrodden free,
to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.
He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak to them, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’ And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips. They said, ‘This is Joseph’s son, surely?’
But he replied, ‘No doubt you will quote me the saying, “Physician, heal yourself” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside.”’
And he went on, ‘I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.
‘There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of these: he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town. And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.’
When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged. They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.
I did this so that your faith should not depend on human philosophy but on the power of God.
I always wondered about the people around me who seemed to have it all put together. They have good jobs, they have happy families, they kept friendships from years before and have little trouble making new ones. All of those things seem to come easy for them. Most striking of all, they never seemed to have had a faith crisis. These friends seemed to also be unwavering in commitment to their faith. I admired this all.
For one, I used to feel like an emotional hurricane. I would go through seasons of feeling close to and then far from God. When things and relationships went south, I would read my life situation as a consequence of some bad thing I had done, that I had fallen from God’s favour. There would be a cycle of sorrow, guilt, fear, and then grit – to get back on track and ‘do the right things’. Truth be told, being a Christian sometimes felt like more of a burden than a salvation. I was always playing catch-up with my idea of being favoured by God.
As I read today’s Scripture, a few points came to my mind about living a life that is close to Christ.
- We will never be liked all the time. Friends and acquaintances will have different reasons for their attitude and perception of me. How well I am favoured this week or this season is no measure of my worth or likeability. Likewise, I am not perfect and I will likely sometimes piss someone off. But hey! That’s normal in human relationships.
- No prophet is ever accepted in his own country. Sometimes, our families function just the way they are. Other times, there is a whole lot of dysfunction. And every one hides more than a little bit of weirdness and lack and inadequacy about their families. We just never see it in their smiles. Families are imperfect – don’t try to change your parents, your siblings, and your ancestry. Some of us (and our desire for growth, change, and salvation) will just never sit well with the people we live with – and that is okay. We choose growth, we still try to love them, and we will move on.
- Your job, your intellect, your skills and talents – these are not the only gifts that God has given you. If these don’t work out, you may begin to see cracks in your self-image. Then you will realise that you have too many unhealthy associations of your self-worth with your social and financial standing. Celebrate your life! You are the only you in this world, and you are God’s greatest gift to your self. No one can take this away from you. Hence, ‘your faith should not depend on human philosophy but on the power of God.’
- Everyone needs a personal faith crisis. Everyone will eventually experience one. This is not a consolation for those who feel like they always had the short end of stick. This is the only way you or I will ever experience the immense grace, mercy, and justice of God. We can only experience wholeness after confronting our deep brokenness. And we have the consolation of God that Christ is with us in every state of great need and tribulation. This is God’s mercy. This is also God’s love.
Many of these thoughts are both practical and spiritual. Our love for God and faith in Him is an iterative journey that will often see us going through cycles of doubts, comparisons with others, intimacy, enlightenment, guilt for our sins, sorrow for straying, but also a deep longing to return. May we continue to forge on this path and fix our gaze on Christ.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)
Prayer: Help me Lord to remain steadfast in faith no matter how the winds of human favour and the world’s attractions may blow.
Thanksgiving: I thank you Lord for all my trials and tribulations through life and all its stations. They keep me real, they keep me humble, and they help me experience empathy for others.