Memorial of St. Leo the Great, pope and doctor of the Church
(Titus 1:1-9; Psalm 24; Luke 17:1-6)
Jesus is not only addressing his apostles in the gospel passage today. His words are meant for all people charged with the care of others. Parents, teachers, supervisors, government servants, military officers should take notice.
Jesus warns those in leadership that they must never give scandal since the penalty for this offense might drown even a Navy frogman. The apostles, who will become heads of local churches, anticipate the grave responsibility of their selection and ask Jesus for an increase of faith. They sound like teachers seeking a raise because they are entrusted with the care of children. Teachers may deserve an increase that exceeds the rise in the cost of living, but Jesus assures the Twelve that they have enough faith. Even if it appears small, he tells them, their faith can produce an orchard of fruit!
We share some of the apostles’ anxiety. We feel that our faith is insufficient to meet our responsibilities when God does not immediately answer our prayers. The saga of St. Leo the Great whose memorial we celebrate today should give us hope. St. Leo was pope when Attila the Hun, who had plundered northern Italy, headed for Rome. When the two met face-to-face, Pope Leo was able to convince the barbarian not to attack Rome but to settle for tribute. St. Leo the Great demonstrates how to meet challenges with equanimity, praying to God for prudence to make the right decision and for His continuing assistance that all may turn out well.