Homily (Reflection) for the Memorial of Saint Gregory the Great, Pp. D. (3rd September, 2016) on the Gospel and the Memorial
Ps 144:17-21. (R. v. 18);
Pope Saint Gregory I (the Great), son of Gordianus and Silvia was born around 540 in Rome. Pope Felix III (483 - 492) was his great-great-grandfather. He was well educated and excelled in all his studies. Gregory was the Prefect of Rome. He converted his family villa in Rome into a monastery (San Gregorio Magno al Celio) after his father’s death. As a monk, he was hard and strict. Gregory was proclaimed pope by acclamation after the death of Pope Pelagius II (579 – 590). He emphasized missionary work and also made many changes in the Mass. His contributions to the development of the plainchant (Gregorian Chant) is under dispute. Pope Gregory generously cared for the poor. He suffered from arthritis in his last years and died on March 12, 604 AD. He was immediately proclaimed a saint by means of popular acclaim. He is venerated in the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran Christians.
Topic: Fight over letters.
Jesus’ disciples plucked some heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands, and ate as He walked through the grainfields in today’s gospel. The Pharisees questioned “Why are you doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?”
The book of Exodus commands, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Ex 20:8). And the book of Deuteronomy explains further,
...the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, or your manservant, or your maidservant, or your ox, or your ass, or any of your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your manservant and your maidservant may rest as well as you (Deut 5:14; cf. Ex 20:10).
Sabbatical laws prohibit a lot of things. They include lightning a fire, (cf. Ex 35:3), carrying load (cf. Jer 17:21, 22; Jn 5:10), walking more than half a mile, (cf. Acts 1:12) and many more. The penalty is death, cf. Ex 31:14, 15. 35:2.
However, while answering their question, Jesus took their minds back to when David and his men ate the bread of Presence which was lawful for priests alone. He also reminded them in another text that “on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are guiltless” (Matt 12:5; cf. Num 28:9). The people also circumcised on Sabbath, (cf. Jn 7:22); pulled their children and animals that fell into well on a Sabbath day, (cf. Lk 14:5; Matt 12:11); untied their animals from the manger and led them away to water them, (cf. Lk 13:15), and so on. Therefore they fought over letters.
Jesus then queried in Mark chapter 3 verse 4, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” Similar questions abound, cf. Lk 6:9. 14:3. Why then should they be angry because He made a man’s body well on a Sabbath, (cf. Jn 7:23; Matt 12:12; Lk 13:16)?
Jesus came to complete the Law and the Prophets, cf. Matt 5:17. His mission is to save, cf. Jn 12:47; Lk 19:10; 1Tim 1:15. The Sabbath does not prohibit any from doing good; “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mk 2:27). Saint Gregory the Great is a good example of one who did good for others especially the poor. May we follow his example and work tirelessly for the good of our brothers and sisters every day.
Bible Reading: Jn 7:10-24.
Thought for today: No law forbids charity.
Let us pray: Lord, help us ever to work for our brothers and sisters – Amen.
Saint Gregory the Great – Pray for us.
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