November 10, 2012
St. Leo the Great
Luke 16: 9-15
And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes. “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own?
No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they ridiculed him. So he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)
Leo: A Pope of Profound Influence
Leo, one of just two popes who as yet bear the title “Magnus,” lived in an age of mass migrations, political breakdown and debilitating religious controversy. He faced these challenges head on with great faith, intelligence and determination, and his contributions have had a lasting effect on the doctrine and practice of the Church. In his own times, however, his achievements may not have seemed so great. He encouraged the conversion of Germanic immigrants to Catholic Christianity, but most of them fell prey to the Arian heresy. He once spared the city of Rome from being sacked by Attila the Hun, but could do nothing to stop him from ravaging much of Europe.
was a significant contribution to the deliberations at the Council of Chalcedon, whose Christological formulations are still a bulwark of unity in faith between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches; at the time, however, the council was rejected by many and did little to quell the doctrinal uproar across the Roman Empire. Finally, Leo’s writings on the role of the Bishop of Rome have been vitally important to the development of Catholic understanding of the papacy, an understanding that his brother bishops, especially in the East, often did not share. Might not Leo, seemingly overwhelmed by the tide of history and by men of greater power but lesser wisdom, have been tempted more than once to despair?
Hear the words he speaks: “Short and fleeting are the joys of this world’s pleasures which endeavor to turn aside from the path of life those who are called to eternity. The faithful and religious spirit, therefore, must desire the things which are heavenly, and being eager for the divine promises, lift itself to the love of the incorruptible good and the hope of the true light.” This hope was not merely Leo’s comfort amidst setbacks, but the driving force behind his powerful preaching, his deep theological reflection, his titanic effort to steer the Barque of Peter through so many storms.
Let us ask his intercession today for the whole Church, especially for his successor, Benedict: may his heart be likewise set upon the incorruptible good and eager for the divine promises.
—Sam Conedera, S.J.
Lord, while others might misjudge us, doubt our motives, or question our commitment, you alone know our heart. Our greatest accomplishment is sometimes a private victory not known to anyone but you. Help us to focus more on seeking your love and less on seeking others’ approval. Raise our awareness and strengthen our resolve to be faithful in small matters. And when situations occur with serious consequences, we will then be prepared to have the courage and persistence necessary to stand for your truth.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team
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