Pope Gregory I, celebrated as Saint Gregory the Great, is a Doctor of the Church, and was born in 540 A.D. He was consecrated as Pope on September 3, 590 to become the 64th Pope. Even though he was a pope he preferred monastic life, after all he was a Benedictine monk. He held important the foundation of monasteries and influenced the shape of the papacy during the early medieval period in the midst of corruption, and was able to consolidate all the land under papacy. He also was responsible for liturgical reform and said to be the originator of the Gregorian Chant.
That being said, in the midst of the church politics and founding new monasteries, he felt it was important to reach out to the poor and the sick, especially those who suffered from the abuse of corruption. His life was truly ministry, and it sets an example for how we should serve in ministry. As we read the Scripture for today, it is very evident that Saint Gregory lived his true calling as a follower of Jesus, whether as a monk or as Pope.
1 Corinthians 3:1-9 Brothers and sisters, I could not talk to you as spiritual people, but as fleshly people, as infants in Christ. I fed you milk, not solid food, because you were unable to take it. Indeed, you are still not able, even now, for you are still of the flesh. While there is jealousy and rivalry among you, are you not of the flesh, and walking according to the manner of man? Whenever someone says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely men? What is Apollos, after all, and what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, just as the Lord assigned each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive wages in proportion to his labor. For we are God’s co-workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
Luke 4:38-44 After Jesus left the synagogue, he entered the house of Simon. Simon’s mother-in-law was afflicted with a severe fever, and they interceded with him about her. He stood over her, rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up immediately and waited on them. At sunset, all who had people sick with various diseases brought them to him. He laid his hands on each of them and cured them. And demons also came out from many, shouting, “You are the Son of God.” But he rebuked them and did not allow them to speak because they knew that he was the Christ. At daybreak, Jesus left and went to a deserted place. The crowds went looking for him, and when they came to him, they tried to prevent him from leaving them. But he said to them, “To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God, because for this purpose I have been sent.” And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.
As I reflect upon the Scripture, and the life of Gregory the Great, I recall an experience I had roughly 10 years ago. I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Jamaica, and while I was there I spent two days visiting a community served by the Missionaries of the Poor. The religious brothers bathed and fed the poorest of the poor in Jamaica. The founder, Father Ho Lung, believes that the poor must be looked out for because it is what Jesus calls for us to do. The whole time I was visiting, I expressed that I had so much admiration for the brothers because it is not something I could be doing day in and day out. I see a saint in Father Ho Lung because he cared about what mattered, while serving as a pastor of a parish in Papine, Jamaica. He balanced the ministries of administrator, founder, and being hands-on, just as Saint Gregory was as pope. All of his work has been because the focus being on Jesus as the focus.
Like Father Ho Lung, and like Gregory the Great, we must work to further the kingdom of our Lord. God calls us to ministries that might be undesirable to others, even possibly to us at first. Yet when we understand what the purpose of that ministry is, we are able to truly engage with and help those in need and people will possibly see the saint in us.