Some Wisdom for Ministry from Gregory the Great

I came across this today as I was preparing my sermon for this Sunday. From a homily of Gregory the Great (emphasis my own):

We must all of us strive zealously to make known to the church both the dreadfulness of the coming judgment and the kingdom of heaven’s delight. Those who are not in a position to address a large assembly should instruct individuals, offering instruction in personal talks; they should try to serve those around them through simple encouragement… You who are pastors, consider that you are pasturing God’s flock. We often see a block of salt put out for animals to lick for their well-being. Priests among their people should be like blocks of salt. They should counsel everyone in their flocks in such a way that all those with whom they come in contact may be seasoned with eternal life as if they had been sprinkled with salt. We who preach are not the salt of the earth unless we season the hearts of those who listen to us. We are really preaching to others if we ourselves do what we say, if we are pierced with God’s love, if, since we cannot avoid sin, our tears wash away the stains on our life that come with each new day. We truly feel remorse when we take to heart the lives of our forebears in the faith so that we are diminished in our own eyes. Then do we truly feel remorse, when we attentively examine God’s teachings and adopt for our own use what those we revere themselves used for theirs. And while we are moved to remorse on our own account, let us also take responsibility  for the lives of those entrusted to our care. Our own bitter compunction should not divert us from concern for our neighbor. What good to love and strive to do good for our neighbor and abandon ourselves? We must realize that our passion for justice in the face of another’s evil must never cause us to lose the virtue of gentleness. Priests must not be quick-tempered or rash; they must instead be temperate and thoughtful. We must support those we challenge and challenge those we support. If we neglect this, our work will lack either courage or gentleness. What shall we call the human soul but the food of the Lord? It is created to become nothing less than Christ’s body and to bring about growth to the eternal church. We priests are to season this food. Cease to pray, cease to teach, and the salt loses its taste.

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