Saint Gregory the Great – Readings

Commentary on 2 Corinthians 4:1-2, 5-7; Ps 95; Luke 22:24-30

The Gospel reading is from Luke’s account of the Last Supper. Jesus has just taken the cup and then the bread, which he said was his body, and distributed them among his disciples, telling them to repeat the ritual in his memory. He then goes on to say that he is going to be betrayed by one of those who are sharing the cup. This saying causes some consternation among them.

Then an argument broke out among them as to which of them was the greatest. Were they doing this because of what Jesus had told them about his coming death? Without Jesus, who would be in charge of the group? Right on the very eve of their Master’s death they are squabbling about status.

Jesus then interrupts them by pointing out that in the pagan world, it is those in positions of authority, like kings and governors, who like to exert their power over those who are under them. With the followers of Jesus, however, the situation is to be very different. Those who are really the great ones in the group should behave like the most junior and the one who is the leader stands out by his desire to serve those for whom he is responsible.

That is how Jesus himself is behaving with them. Who is greater? he asks. Is it the one seated at table or the one who serves? Yet Jesus is among them as one who serves. That is shown dramatically in John’s gospel when Jesus gets up from the table and kneels down to wash his disciples’ feet, an act which Peter found very disturbing because it went against all his instincts.

Greatness in Jesus’ world, in the Kingdom, does not consist in exerting authority and power but on the level of what is being done for the benefit of others. Service is not demeaning or lowering oneself. Rather, it is love in action. It is what Jesus’ life was about; he came to serve and not to be served. For that, he becomes a model for our lives.

The reading relates very much to Pope Gregory. In spite of his high position and responsibilities in directing the Church, he saw himself at the service of the Church. He called himself ‘the servant of the servants of God’. He had no time for senior clerics who liked to be addressed by exalted titles and demand other privileges.

We live in a world where status symbols of all kinds are greatly prized but the true Christian is totally indifferent to such things.

In the First Reading from the Second Letter to the Corinthians, Paul tells the Christians of Corinth that he is not preaching himself but Jesus Christ as his Lord and himself as their slave and servant for the sake of Jesus. Paul’s role is to be a transparent medium through whom Jesus and his message are clearly seen. The God who said “Let light shine out of darkness” shines in our hearts so that the glory of God can be seen in the face of Jesus. As Cardinal Newman prayed, “Let them look up and see, no longer me, but only Jesus.”

Again, this passage applies to Gregory who wrote much, not to glorify himself, but to present the mystery of Jesus to people hungry for knowledge of their Lord.

We, too, are called to be the visible presence of Christ in our world. Together we form the Body of the Risen Christ. “Who sees you, sees me” is what he told his disciples. Our task as followers of Christ is not just to care for our own spiritual well-being but to be aware of our responsibility to make Jesus and his Gospel known to the world around us. What are we doing to make that happen?

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