”The sacred scriptures grow with the one who reads them.” ~ Saint Gregory the Great
Our First Reading on this First Friday of September, which coincides with the Memorial of the legendary Pope, Doctor of the Church and Saint whose quote kicks off today’s Reflection https://discover.hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Charms-of-Sweetness-Contests-of-Temptation-and-Fullness-of-Perfection is a continuation of Paul’s Letter to the Colossians (1:15-20), a letter which we embarked upon yesterday. It is in essence a re-assertion of all that we believe Jesus to be.
“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together,” Paul explains. “He is the head of the Body, the Church,” he goes on to say, an early nod to the Mystical Body of Christ discourse that Paul would so often refer to and elaborate on, as would many others in the decades and centuries to come https://discover.hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Mystici-Corporis-Christi-Revisited. “He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the Blood of his cross through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.”
If one were to introduce or summarize Jesus to someone unfamiliar with Him, today’s passage from the Letter to the Colossians would be required reading. In fact I have found Paul’s Letters to be great Eucharistic Adoration material as well. To simply reflect upon this short passage while in the presence of the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus, to mediate on the vastness of our Lord, is a sublime approach to encountering and ultimately knowing Him. Jesus is far greater than you or I could ever imagine on our own. Thank goodness for the prophets like Saint Paul, the prolific bishops and popes such as Saint Gregory the Great, and sacred scripture itself, which helps us to lift our mind and spirit to meditate on the goodness, glory, power and mercy of Jesus in a deeper and more profound way. “The Holy Bible is like a mirror before our mind's eye,” Saint Gregory the Great would often say. “In it we see our inner face. From the Scriptures we can learn our spiritual deformities and beauties. And there too we discover the progress we are making and how far we are from perfection.”
If the tactics used by the Pharisees in today’s Gospel (Luke 5:33-39) sound familiar, perhaps you’ve been watching a more than healthy ~ or should I say unhealthy ~ dose of cable tv news. “The disciples of John the Baptist fast often and offer prayers, and the disciples of the Pharisees do the same, but yours eat and drink,” the Pharisees say to Jesus, ever bent on tripping Him up. Similar to today’s political leaders, with an eager assist from their ratings-hungry friends in the media, immediately the Pharisees seek to divide and create factions. We see this today everywhere we turn. Democrat versus Republican, rich versus poor, black versus white and of course the very popular new entry into the fray, vaccinated versus unvaccinated. Our politicians know full well that keeping the electorate angry with each other deflects attention from their incompetence and corruption. So too the Pharisees sought to divide and conquer, knowing full well that inducing one’s foe to collapse from within is always the fastest and most efficient path to victory.
As He so often does, Jesus deflects the disingenuous rhetoric and opts to turn it into a teaching opportunity, introducing us to the parable of the New Wine in Old Wineskins. We come to learn that Jesus is the “New Wine,” ever seeking to intoxicate us with His mercy and glorious power to transform and ultimately save us.
The previously aforementioned Saint Gregory the Great served as Pope Gregory I from the years 590 to 604. A timeless witness to the Gospel, proving that it can be lived in fullness and purity regardless of historical period, Gregory I’s papacy placed a premium on missionary work. He would send out countless servants of God, a title he preferred even for himself, more-so than Pope, into the vast reaches of the world thereby bringing many to Jesus. He understood the importance of unity, his dogged vision for the one holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church serving as the hallmark for so many others who followed in his footsteps.
Pope Saint Gregory the Great was a man however who knew that evil existed. He knew that there would be those who simply rejected the Gospel message. He had his share of adversaries. He was prone to occasional bouts of incorrigibility. By no means a shrinking violet, he once said “The bliss of the elect in heaven would not be perfect unless they were able to look across the abyss and enjoy the agonies of their brethren in eternal fire.” Yes, he had the wisdom and sagacity to understand the power and necessity for forgiveness and mercy but he also knew that those who knowingly chose the fate of the damned would get precisely that which they bargained for.
May we come to fully learn the truth of Christ and tirelessly express this divine truth in works of charity, love and devotion. For in the words of Saint Gregory the Great, “The proof of love is in the works. Where love exists, it works great things. But when it ceases to act, it ceases to exist.”