Memorial of Saint Leo the Great, pope and doctor of the Church
(Wisdom 2:23-3:9; Luke 17:7-10)
The passage from the Book of Wisdom today includes some of the most consoling words that Catholics hear at funerals. They especially give hope to families of those who have died after living justly and charitably over many decades. Since Wisdom was written in the Greek language neither Jews nor Protestants accept it in their canon of Scripture. Yet its message of hope is universal.
Wisdom was probably composed in the century before Christ in Alexandria, Egypt. In some ways the Jews in that context were dealing with the same challenges Christians today face. Individualism was on the rise along with skepticism and dissatisfaction with traditional beliefs. Formerly religious people were turning to pagan belief systems and secular philosophy while all felt the threat of persecution. The author turned to the Scriptures for answers to the questions that his co-religionists were asking under these conditions.
One of the answers is related in today’s reading. God rewards the just for their virtue. Trials come with living. Indeed, God sends them to determine who is worthy of happiness with him. There is no mention of resurrection from the dead in Wisdom. However, we can see how Christians given the experience of Jesus’ resurrection would readily embrace this scripture.