Nov 10 – Memorial for St. Leo the Great, pope, doctor
St. Leo (c.400 – 461) was born of Italian nobility. He was a strong student, especially in scripture and theology. As a priest, he was an eloquent writer and homilist.
He was pope from 440-461 during the time of the invasion of Attila the Hun. When Attila marched on Rome, Leo went out to meet him and pleaded for leave. As Leo spoke, Attila saw the vision of a man in priestly robes, carrying a bare sword, and threatening to kill the invader if he did not obey Pope Leo. As Leo had a great devotion to St. Peter, it is generally believed that the first pope was the visionary opponent to the Huns. When Genseric invaded Rome, Leo’s sanctity and eloquence saved the city again.
Pope Leo called the Council of Chalcedon to condemn the heresies of the day, which were Nestorianism (Christ as a human person joined to the divine person of God’s Son), Monophysitism (Christ’s human nature ceases to exist when the divine person of God’s Son assumed it), Manichaeism (Gnostic system resting on a dualistic concept of the world’s structure), and Pelaianism (no supernatural grace is needed for one to choose good).
He built churches and wrote letters and sermons encouraging and teaching the flock, many of which survive today. It is for these writings that Leo was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1574.
“Virtue is nothing without the trial of temptation, for there is no conflict without an enemy, no victory without strife.” – Pope St. Leo the Great
- Patron Saint Index
When He saw them, He said, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” Now as they were going away they were cleansed.
I think that I can safely say that we have all experienced, some time in our lives, where we were about to do something out of our comfort zone and felt completely scared and anxious. Yet, with a lot of self-talk and prayer, we probably mustered enough courage to plough forward and see it through. We took the plunge and just did it, with courage and of course, with faith.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” We trust that everything will work out, and if we have God as our partner, then we trust that He will get us where we need to go. Faith is a process, not a destination. We don’t go through something to build our faith at the end. Our faith gets built along the way as we chip away in the darkness and more light is revealed. But faith also requires obedience. Sometimes, our rational mind tells us, “This doesn’t make sense”, so we hesitate at the precipice. Which makes all the difference, really. The ten lepers in today’s reading knew this. So, when Jesus asked them to go and show themselves to the priests, they went without questioning and that made the difference between them being healed and remaining diseased.
Note that they had not yet been healed when they set out. Jesus could have healed them on the spot, but He didn’t; and there is a point to be made here. They were healed as they were going. Their obedience led them to get up and out of their place of abode, and their faith gave them the courage to leave isolation and re-enter society at the peril of being ridiculed, since they still had leprosy. Imagine, for a second, what it must have been like for them — still bearing the hallmarks of the disease. It must have been terrifying to have to make the trip to see the priests who were no doubt in town, having to pass through ‘normal’ people who would see them as the scum of society. The fear would have been paralysing. But they went anyway and were healed along the way, even before they got there. They trusted in Jesus that something would happen, though at the time they did not know what, and Jesus healed them.
But the trust is, in a way, reciprocal. We trust in Jesus that He will keep His end of the bargain, so we act in faith. But what if Jesus also trusts in us to keep our end of the bargain to give due thanks and glory to God when He comes through for us? Perhaps that is why He was disappointed when only one of the lepers came back to thank and praise God. What if faith requires more than courage and obedience? What if our faith journey needs gratitude to complete it? It is like going on a soul-searching trip — making the trip itself is only one part of the equation; there must be reflection to give meaning to the whole journey. Likewise, when we take that leap of faith with Jesus. After He sees us through the episode, we are so caught up with relief and joy that sometimes, we forget to thank Him. It’s not that we are ungrateful, but sometimes, we unintentionally procrastinate, and then completely forget about it.
But in not giving thanks and praise to God, we are also cheating ourselves. Firstly, we cheat ourselves of the opportunity to build a grateful heart. And gratitude leads to a happier existence. Secondly, and more importantly, we cheat ourselves of having a complete experience with Jesus and receiving further blessings from Him. If we revisit the line in the reading where Jesus appears disappointed that only one leper – the Samaritan – had returned to give thanks and praise to God, He says to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has saved you.”
The Samaritan was the only one who eventually had a complete experience with Jesus. He was the only one who came back. Our faith journeys with Jesus – be they healings or overcoming a challenge or other form – give us the chance to walk with Him, be with Him, rely on Him. It brings us to Him, and that is part of the salvation of God. By giving Him thanks and praise for His blessings, our salvation comes full circle, and opens us up to receive more grace. While the other nine lepers were only healed from their illness, the Samaritan was doubly blessed. Jesus had proclaimed that he was saved. He had received that blessing from Jesus himself. What greater gift could one ask for?
Therefore, while faith requires courage and obedience for the journey, gratitude gives the whole journey meaning. It brings us full circle; it brings us back to Jesus.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)
Prayer: Jesus, You have always provided Your companionship in our lives, particularly in the troubled times. Forgive us the times when we have not given You due thanks and praise. We pray that we will always remember to pack faith, courage, obedience and gratitude on all our journeys with You.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always walking the path with me. Even when I don’t see You, my heart knows You are always beside me. I want to always come to You.