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 4:6-15
One sabbath Jesus happened to be taking a walk through the cornfields, and his disciples were picking ears of corn, rubbing them in their hands and eating them.
The experience of watching the series, The Chosen, has made it easier for me to imagine scenes in the Bible. When going through today’s Gospel reading, I pictured Jesus and the disciples passing through the countryside on their way from one town to the next. The disciples might have been listening to Jesus, chatting among themselves or just concentrating on the rigour of travelling on foot with their assorted belongings. Under such circumstances, it would have been understandable to reach for a quick snack, but the Pharisees quickly turn this ‘tea break’ into yet another criticism against Jesus. This also made me think deeper about the behaviour of both the Pharisees and the disciples.
How did the Pharisees know that the disciples were eating grain? After all, they would probably not have been part of the group following Jesus. Perhaps they had been in the town which Jesus was heading to, practically lying in wait to see how they could use His every word or action to reinforce their prejudice against Him. My first instinct is to disapprove of such behaviour, but then I (guiltily) remember that I too am capable of judging others according to my pre-formed views about them. I also find myself wondering whether my tendency to do things ‘by the book’ has made me miss the bigger picture and fail to perceive how our Lord is often more merciful, generous, open-minded and inclusive than we expect.
I also wonder if the disciples understood the full intent and significance of Jesus’s words in this passage. Reading it made me recall a scene in The Chosen when a character quips, “(Jesus) doesn’t like religion very much”, which made Jesus appear as a ‘cool’ anti-establishment rebel (which I found slightly amusing since the Catholic Church is now seen as conservative). The comment is accurate to some extent, but Jesus didn’t intend to dismiss the rules and rituals of organised religion; He wanted His disciples to appreciate the purpose and meaning underlying them (as He also showed in the verses following this passage). He also wanted to explain that He is above all such rules and rituals, because He is God and Lord of all – a statement that would have been quite astonishing to all present. And this all started from a simple nibble!
Indeed, the Gospel reading shows that what started as a rather minor incident became an opportunity to affirm Jesus’ identity and how we are to relate to Him. It also makes me think of at least two other issues — it reminds me of my intention to keep at least part of the Sabbath holy, and how often I’ve failed to keep this resolution. It also seems to contain an echo of the first reading for today, where Paul writes, “Who confers distinction upon you? What do you possess that you have not received?”, which makes me wonder about the many times I proclaim Jesus as my Lord while behaving as if I am solely responsible for my life and all that I have achieved. It makes me think about how even a seemingly insignificant moment can provide us an opportunity to encounter and learn about our God, if we resolve to stay open to His gentle prompting and reflect on what He wants to tell us.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Jaclyn Lam)
Prayer: Lord, grant us guidance and wisdom to discern the purpose of your teachings. Help us to stay humble and open to how we should follow Your Word, especially in situations of ambiguity. Forgive us for the times we have taken You and Your blessings for granted, and give us perseverance in keeping the Sabbath holy with, and for, You.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for always being patient with us and for being with us through all moments, both major and minor. Thank you for always calling us to a deeper relationship with You. Help us to stay open to Your guidance and to hear Your gentle voice.