In the responsorial psalm, we heard these words: “The LORD had done great things for them. The LORD has done great things for us."
The psalmist assures us of God's greatness and faithfulness to His covenant.
Throughout salvation history, we've also had individuals that have been given the title of "great." We have Alexander the Great - called great because of his military genious, bringing Hellenism - which is the Greek culture and language to all parts of the civiilized world at his time, from India to the East to Egypt and Greece to the west. He was also tutored by the brilliant philosopher, Aristotle. We have Constantine the Great - who was revered not only because of his military prowess, but also because of his monumental courage in legalizing Christianity with the Edict of Milan, in 313 a.d., ending intense Roman persecution of Christians.(Theodosius I - official religion of Roman Empire 379)
Leo the Great was known for being one of the first to explain the doctrine of the incarnation in his letter to the patriarch of Constantinople, as well as persuading Attila the Hun to desist in attacking Rome.
St. Gregory the Great was pope around the fall of the Roman Empire, when barbarians were ransacking all of Rome and strengthened the bishops, putting together a pastoral rule. Brought heirarchy and structure to the bishopric.
John Paul the II has been called recently in many circles as John Paul the Great. He entered into the papacy at a time when Vatican II was still being implemented and restated the churches position on marriage and family life, the dangers of contraception, and brought forth great ecumenism to the church. He was integral in the fall of atheistic communism which first fell in his own country of Poland.
In the world of sports: Muhammed Ali - The self-proclaimed greatest boxer of all time. He floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee.
Today, we look at King Cyrus of Persia, also known as Cyrus the Great. He was so acclaimed by the Jews, in the Book of the prophet Isaiah, as being anointed by God. For he allowed the Jewish people to return from their time of exile in Babylon.
In the book of the prophet Isaiah, Ch. 45, often referred to as Deutoro-Isaiah, because it is believed that Isaiah did not write this part of the test. since he most probably was not around when the Babylonian exile ceased, Cyrus is considered to be anointed by God.
And we have the period that followed: the great restoration of the Temple, and the resettlement in the land. Cyrus was Great because he respected the Jewish Traditions and gave freedom to exercise their worship by endorsing the reconstruction of the Temple.
Ezra and Nehemiah are the great heroes of this period. Ezra was responsible for rebuilding the Jewish temple and religious reform of the people, and Nehemiah for rebuilding the Temple walls, and political reform. Both Ezra and Nehemiah were great in the eyes of God and the Jewish people. But what is greatness? I think we are referring to some sort of excellence in accomplishment for all of these figures. The question of true greatness though, is whether or not that accomplishment, brings others closer to God.
In today's Gospel we see the importance given to light. Light is the most significant sacramental of the Church, because light allows the truth to be revealed to our senses.
According to St. Robert Bellarmine, in his work, The Ascent of the Mind to God, light refers to the Ten Commandments. In other words, when we go out into the world, we bring with us our moral code and we abide by it. For some people that light we emanate is beautiful and refreshing. For others who have spent so much time away from the light, it's blinding and hurts.
And so thus is our experience of evangelization in ministry. Not everyone wants to be enlightened. And there are moments in our life where we'll be tempted to extinguish the light within us in order to fit in to a particular conversation or be part of a particular group, or to increase business.
Christians are called to challenge the culture and bring the light of Christ in order to help assess cultural values.
Our greatness lies in our ability to bring the light of Christ to others despite cultural obstacles that get in our way.
Mainstream culture, today, in 21st Century seems to accept abortion, same-sex marriage, contraception. When conversations arise regarding these controversial topics, do we bring the light of the Church in her wisdom to the conversation, or do we cower in fear that we will not be accepted by others.
Those who fail to bring the light with them in their jobs, businesses, particularly those who have positions in civil government, would not be considered great.
In reality, enculturation can be good or bad, depending on the end goal of the enculturation. Jason, the High Priest in 2 Maccabees, does a great disservice to the Jews by dissuading the priests from their temple duties at the altars of sacrifice, to adopt Greek culural values that went against the Mosaic Law. This enculturation led many Jewish people astray, as they began to revere the Greek gods over the one true God.
Conversely, St. Peter makes a difficult decision with respect to enculturation when he decides that it is unnecessary for Gentile Christians to go through the unnecessary burden of circumcision to be initiated in the Church. Baptism is what is necessary.
And some of us are called to work within the culture and challenge people and systems from withn, like the Dominican and Franciscans.
Others are called to set themselves apart, like the Benedictines.
One thing is certain, we need to know Sacred Scripture and our Catechism to bring the light of Christ to others authentically, and we cannot let the fear of rejection stifle our evangelization. If we stay close to Christ and His church, and continue to persevere and carry the light wherever we go, we true will be great in the eyes of God
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!