Home      Back to Trinity 21





Pride Rebuked
Given to the People in the Basilica of the Holy Nereus and Achilleus,
on their Natal Day
St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor
Translated by M.F. Toale, D.D.
(PL 76, col. 1210, Homilia XXVIII.)
JOHN iv. 46-53

1.  The lesson of the Holy Gospel which you have just now heard, Brethren, needs no explanation. But that we may not appear to pass over it in silence, we shall say something with regard to it more by way of exhortation than explanation. The only point in it that I see needs to be explained is, why he who had come to pray for the restoration to health of his son should hear the words: Unless you see signs and wonders, you believe not? For without doubt this man who came praying for the health of his son believed. He would not have asked healing from one he did not believe was a Healer. Why then were the words: Unless you see signs and wonders, you believe not, said to one who believed even before seeing a sign? But remember what he asked and you will see clearly that his faith was doubtful.

For he asked that Jesus should come down, and heal his son. He asked therefore for the bodily Presence of the Lord Who in spirit is present in all places; and so had little faith in Him Who, he believed, could not heal unless He were present in body with the sick. Had his faith been perfect, he would have known beyond doubt that there is no place where God is not. And so in great part he was unbelieving: for He was not honouring Christís divine majesty, but His corporeal presence. He begs for his sonís healing, and at the same time his faith is doubting: for he believes that He to Whom he has come has power to heal; but believes also that unless Jesus comes to him, his son will die. But the Lord, when asked to come, shows that he is not absent from where He is asked to come; and by His sole word He restores health Who by His sole command created all things.

2.  And here we must carefully recall to mind what we learned from the testimony of another Evangelist, that a certain centurion came to the Lord and said: Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, and is grievously tormented. And straightaway Jesus answers: I will come and heal him (Mt. viii. 6, 7). Why is it that when the ruler asks Him to come to his son He refuses to go there bodily, while, though not asked to come to the servant of the centurion, He offers to go there at once? He does not think it fitting that He should go to the rulerís son, while He did think it fitting to hasten to the centurionís servant?

What is this but a rebuking of our pride, which leads us to honour in men, not their nature, in which they are made to the image of God, but their dignity and riches? While our mind is drawn to the things that surround men, we have no thought for the inward things of man; we consider carefully what can be seen on their bodies, we fail to think of what they are themselves. But our Redeemer, to show us that what is high to men (Lk. xvi. 15), is not to be esteemed by the sanctified, and that what men despise the saints must not despise, refuses to go to the son of the ruler, while ready at once to go to the centurionís servant. Therefore it is our pride He here rebuked; which is unable, because of men, to judge what men are. As we have said, pride thinks only of the things that surround men, and has no thought for their natures: it will not acknowledge the dignity of God in man.

See how the Son of God will not come down to the son of the ruler, yet He is ready to come at once to heal a slave. And indeed should someoneís slave ask us to come and see him, at once the unspoken thought of our pride will answer, and say: ĎDo not go. You will demean yourself, and lose dignity. The neighbourhood is unpleasant.í And lo! He Who came down from heaven does not refuse to come at once to a servant on earth; while we who are of the earth earthy, think it beneath us to be humble on earth. What is baser in the sight of God, what more contemptible, than to serve honour among men, and have no reverence for the eyes of the Unseen Witness?

Because of this we read in the holy Gospel, that the Lord said to the Pharisees: You are they who justify themselves before men, but God knoweth your hearts. For that which is high to men, is an abomination before God (Lk. xvi. 15), Note well, brethren: take note of what He says. If what is held in honour among men, is held as abominable before God; then the more the pride of our heart is despised by God, the more it is esteemed by men; and the more the humility of our heart is despised by men, the more is it honoured by God.

3. Let us then hold it as nothing should we do any good work. Let no work of ours inflate us with pride, no abundance of possessions, no earthly glory uplift us. For of the humble of heart the psalmist says: The Lord is the keeper of little ones (cxiv. 6). Why he calls the humble of heart, little ones, he then tells us: as though we had immediately asked him what the Lord did for them: I was humbled, and he delivered me.

Meditate upon these things, brethren, meditate upon them with your whole attention. Do not bow down before the worldly possessions of your neighbour. Out of reverence for God, honour this in men (to whom at the same time you have not been entrusted): That they are made in the image of God. And you will truly honour your neighbour in this way, if your heart is not puffed up with pride. For he who remains above himself, because of his fleeting possessions, does not know how to honour in his neighbour that which endures for ever.

Do not therefore be taken up with what you have, but with what you are. See how even now the world men love withers away. These holy ones, by whose tomb we are gathered, in their souls despised this glittering world. There was then the allure of long life, unbroken health, abundance of every kind, fruitfulness of offspring, rest in undisturbed peace; yet, while the world flowered in itself, already in their hearts it had withered.

See how the world now withers in itself; yet still flowers in our heart. Everywhere is death, everywhere sorrow, everywhere desolation and sadness; we are struck from every side, from every side we are filled with bitterness. And yet, with minds blinded by carnal desires, we love this very bitterness; as the world leaves us, we pursue it; as it collapses, we cling to it. And since we cannot uphold it, as it falls we fall with it; we fall with that to which as it falls we cling.

Once the world held us fast in its delight. Now it is filled with so many afflictions, that now it is the world itself that sends us to God. Reflect therefore on how all that now runs past us in time is as nothing. The end of earthly things shows us the nothingness of that which can fade and pass away. The ruin of things declares to us, that this fleeting thing was then close to nothingness while it yet seemed to stand firm.

Reflect therefore on these things with earnest consideration, Dearest Brethren, and make fast your heart to the love of eternal things, so that refusing to strive after earthly dignities, you may attain to that glory to which we come by faith, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth God with the Father, in the Unity of the Holy Ghost, throughout all ages and ages. Amen.