Homilette for Thursday, September 3, 2009

Memorial of Saint Gregory the Great, pope and doctor of the Church

(Colossians 1:9-14; Luke 5:1-11)

Even before Pope John Paul II died, some Church commentators wondered whether he would go down in history as “John Paul the Great.” It would be an extraordinary tribute. Only two other popes have had the distinction of being so characterized: St. Gregory whom we celebrate today and St. Leo whose feast was in June. Just as John Paul II’s, Gregory's papacy was marked by accomplishment. He is credited with saving Rome from the invading Lombards and became a temporal leader with the virtual abdication of the Roman emporer. He wrote extensively on different subjects. His Pastoral Care became a standard manual for church leaders, and his Moralia is considered a great spiritual work of antiquity. He also reformed the liturgy publishing the Gregorian Sacramentary. In fact, Gregorian chant is named after him.

The gospel today indicates the source of the prodigious achievements of popes like Gregory the Great and John Paul II. By relating how their boats are deluged with fish when Jesus’ disciples’ heed his command to “(P)ut out into the deep and lower your nets,” it suggests that the critical element of greatness is following Jesus’ directives. This rule applies to us as well. We too may achieve remarkable feats – at least the salvation of our own souls. In such cases our survivors may not think of us “Maria the Great” or “Stephen the Great,” but they will likely give thanks to God that we have lived.