Gregory the Great: Overpowered

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“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. Luke 14:31-33

“I would like to urge you to forsake everything but that I do not presume to do. Yet, if you cannot give up everything of this world, at least keep what belongs to the world in such a way that you yourself are not kept prisoner by the world. Whatever you possess must not possess you; whatever you own must be under the power of your soul; for if your soul is overpowered by the love of this world’s goods, it will be totally at the mercy of its possessions”

Gregory the Great (c. 540-604) in Gospels 36 as recounted Milton Walsh in Witness of the Saints: Patristic Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2012) 379.

In today’s Scripture, Jesus uses the illustration of kings about to go to war with each other to illustrate that you must not wage a war you have inadequate resources to win. Instead he urges disciples to choose a pathway of peace.

Likewise, those who try to hold on to and depend on worldly goods enter a battle they simply cannot win. They will soon, in Gregory’s words, be overpowered. They will become prisoners of this world. How do we avoid becoming a prisoner of the world?

To put it simply, Gregory adds, “we must not allow our possessions to possess us.” This happens when we fail to acknowledge the war going on and rightly choose the path of peace. It is only found by surrendering worldly goods to our Lord as His disciple.

When we do, He does not leave us penniless. We experience peace and welcome His provision as His disciples and put whatever He supplies to work. So, if you possess any worldly goods, I suggest you put them to work through giving. Or get ready for life in prison.