Sep 3 – Memorial for St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor
St. Gregory (540-590) collected the melodies and plain chants 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 Saint Index
1 Cor 3:18-23
“Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch.”
Today, we celebrate the memorial of St Gregory the Great, the first medieval pope and the first from a monastic background. Before he became a pope, St Gregory lived a monastic life for a period. In fact, upon his father’s death, he had the family villa converted into a monastery. He clearly preferred it, as reflected in his writings, for which he became well-known. When Pope Pelagius II died, St Gregory was proclaimed his successor, which he was reluctant to accept. But during his lifetime as pope, he spearheaded several reforms and placed great emphasis on missionary work, the most significant and successful one being the mission led by St Augustine of Canterbury to convert Britain’s Anglo-Saxons (later known as ‘the Gregorian mission’).
Imagine what would have happened if St Gregory had turned down his papacy. What would the course of history look like? He had much preferred the quiet, contemplative life that monkhood offered, one which he could retreat to undisturbed. Clearly, he didn’t like his boat rocked very much. Despite his initial reluctance, he eventually took on the task and achieved a great many things as pope.
Compare that with Simon in today’s Gospel reading. Jesus had asked him to lower his nets once more into the waters, and we can sense his initial reluctance to do so. You can feel his fatigue of having worked all night and coming up with nothing. Perhaps under such physical weariness, he probably just wanted to go home and have a lie-down. He must have also thought, why should he be listening to Jesus, who wasn’t even a fisherman by trade? Yet despite his own reluctance, he eventually obeyed and caught such a great number of fish that the nets were at breaking point.
I believe that God has a plan for each one of us. He may give us some clues to shed light as to what that plan is, but oftentimes, it pushes us out of our comfort zone. It is hard sometimes to accept something as ‘God’s calling’. Our lives might be comfortable enough and we, like St Gregory, don’t want our boat rocked. We question so much about the path that lies before us versus the path that we are already travelling on. Does it make sense? Where is the money going to come from? How would it be possible to achieve it? What are the upsides/downsides? So many questions, so many doubts. And this is just from within us — what about questions from our family and friends? Would they think we were crazy to embark on this plan that we believe is God’s calling? It would therefore only be natural for us to feel reluctance and resistance, especially when the path ahead is so foggy, and we cannot see what lies ahead.
If we find that we are faced with a choice like Simon and his partners, then the solution is to take action like they did – apply trust, obedience, and humility. Trust that God will provide, even though we feel that we may not have the necessary skills or resources. The men left everything to follow Jesus – what constitutes everything is hard to say, it could have been material possessions, family and friends, their old way of life. Or perhaps it could be to leave all their doubts at the doorstep and just follow JESUS. Obedience to do as He commands us to do, to try and make the most of it. When we accept and submit ourselves to put our best foot forward despite the circumstances, we may suddenly be able to see God’s plan unfold and become more confident in ourselves. As the fog lifts, the doubts too will eventually melt away. Humility to accept that what we are embarking on is so much bigger than ourselves, that we are all a small piece in the grand scheme of things, but still a piece that can make so much difference if we choose to let God steer us. Whatever successes we achieve along the way are due to God; though we may celebrate our wins, we celebrate it with Him. We recognize that we aren’t the ones bringing magic to the mission, rather the mission that God has put us on has created the magic that we see – the success of the mission, the fanfare and followers, the people that we become. Without God’s grace, none of this would be possible. Let us realise and recognise that.
And so, we ask ourselves today: is there a path that God is trying to show us, to get us to follow? Are we reluctant, and why is that so? God accepts that we may be resistant at the start, yet if we submit ourselves in prayer He will still “make it happen”. Think about Moses, Simon, and Jonah. Think about all the fears and things that these people thought were impossible, yet they did it anyway. If God can make it happen through them, He can make it happen through us.
(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)
Prayer: Lord God, You are the Master of all things. Nothing is impossible for You, although they may be insurmountable to us. But trust and obedience will give us strength and courage, and humility will keep our feet sure on the path. For this, we ask You to guide us and clear the fog from our view.
Thanksgiving: Lord, we give You thanks and praise for entrusting us with the role You have predestined for us in Your plan, for the wins and challenges, for making it happen through us. We pray for Your continued help in our mission for You.