Friday, September 3, 2010

Saint Gregory the Great, pope and doctor of the Church

(I Corinthians 4:1-5; Luke 5:33-39)

The Harvard economist Joseph Schumpeter once observed that one servant is worth a thousand gadgets. Devices like a GPS, I-Phone, and microwave oven may enhance convenience and satisfaction, but can they ever replace a loyal, competent servant? In the reading from I Corinthians today, Paul shares some insights into the Lord’s service.

The “us” to whom Paul refers as Christ’s servants is not meant to be all Christians, but those like himself who minister to the community. In Paul’s mind ministers directly serve Christ, not the people. This means that they take orders from the Lord and not from the faithful among whom they work. Of course, by not subjecting oneself to human authority, the minister risks becoming arrogant and autocratic. Paul, however, finds a safeguard in the criterion of trustworthiness. A true servant of Christ will prove himself or herself faultless in conduct, including humility.

Today the Church celebrates one of her most distinguished servants, Pope Gregory I. He worked tirelessly at the end of the sixth and beginning of the seventh centuries to support the plague-ridden Italian people, to improve relations between the eastern and western churches, and to promote missionary activity. He was distinctly aware of serving the People of God as he coined the term by which popes still identify themselves, “the servant of the servants of the Lord.” The church has honored him by calling him “Pope St. Gregory the Great.”