Memorial of St. Gregory the Great, pope and doctor of the Church
“I confer a kingdom on you, just as my Father has conferred one on me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom; and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
There’s an interesting truth about human beings that emerges out of two themes at work in this Gospel passage. There is the desire, on the part of the disciples of Jesus, for status, for making a difference in this world. And there is the offer Jesus makes which in effect tells them that they really don’t want too much but too little! Jesus wants them to reign with him but they’ve been accustomed to seeing the trappings of this world – those of “the kings of the Gentiles,” for example – and that’s what they think they want. No doubt it was part of their world of living in an occupied country with expectations that the Messiah would free them from such oppression.
But Jesus, who lives under the yoke of his Father, is inviting them to follow him to glory. Of course, the cross – which he says they must take up if they are to be his disciples – looks like anything but a way to glory!
But to really understand the mystery embedded in this human/divine drama, we have to move to ourselves in our celebration of the Holy Eucharist: “that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom.” The Sacred writers of Scripture saw this Eucharistic reference at a dual level: that of the life after Jesus’ Resurrection and when he comes in glory to consummate history.
St. Gregory the Great, whom we Benedictines claim as one of our own and whose feast we observe today has a nice insight that is applicable here. He takes off on a phrase in the story of the Prodigal son when the son realizes that he has squandered his inheritance and then “came to himself.” St. Gregory comments:
When the weak-minded person receives human favor for his deeds, he is often caught up in external delights and puts off satisfying his inner desire; he is captivated by human praise and is glad to be called happy rather than truly to be happy.
We come to the Holy Eucharist in answer to a divine invitation: Do you want to reign with the great of this world or do you want to reign with Me?
Reflection by Fr. Xavier Nacke, OSB