Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Memorial of St. Leo the Great, pope

(Wisdom 2:23-3:9; Luke 17:7-10)

The Book of 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 face today.  Individualism was on the rise along with skepticism and general dissatisfaction concerning traditional beliefs.  Formerly religious people were turning to paganism and secular philosophy in order to avoid persecution.  The author of Wisdom searched ancient texts for remedies to these challenges.  He maintained that by living according to the Law, Jews could be assured of the soul’s immortal life.

This sounds like Christianity's message, but there is a critical difference.  Jesus promises much more than the eternal existence of the soul.  His resurrection from the dead offers followers the prospect of glorified bodies.  They are to enjoy again the wonders of physical creation without, of course, the problems that corporality inevitably bears in its current mode.

Today the Church remembers one of its wisest leaders.  St. Leo the Great was instrumental in resolving the conundrum of how Christ could be both God and human.  Equally impressive, he negotiated with a warring Attila the Hun who subsequently withdrew his forces.