Saturday, November 14, 2009

St Leo the Great

I preached this sermon during the daily mass at the Shrine of St Anthony in Elliott City, where I was leading a day of reflection on Spiritual renewal. One of my favorite topics for sermons is Church History, specially history of the first Christians and the early church. Enjoy.
Today we commemorate the life of Pope Leo the Great, a man who led the early Church during a crucial moment of its history. He was bishop of Rome around the year 440. This was a time in which the Church was experiencing a great transformation. The Roman persecution of Christians was over. Cities in which the apostles had founded churches such as Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem were the sees of important and powerful bishops that saw themselves as the successors of some of the apostles. Each church had developed with great doctrinal freedom, which inevitably led to disagreement and in some cases accusations of heresies.
As the bishop of the imperial city of Rome, Leo realized the importance of Church unity as well as the need for the Universal Church to speak with one voice. And as the successor of the Peter, the prince of the apostles, he saw his role as the one uniting force that would keep the Church together. So throughout His pontificate he labored to establish the primacy of the Bishop of Rome not by the sword but by reason, and by showing that this had been the plan of our Lord from the moment he told Peter “You are Rock and over this rock I will build my Church”.
During the Council of Chalcedon (451), Leo defended the two natures of Christ being attacked by heretics with so much wisdom that the bishops participating in the Council cried out: "This is the faith of the fathers ... Peter has spoken through Leo ..." Which is the first recorded example of the dogma of Papal Infallibility.
Throughout the history of our church only three popes have received the title of “the great” Leo, Gregory who led the Church during a time of liturgical reformation and now it seems that John Paul II will be given this title. These three men are called great not because of what they when they were Popes but because they understood the role given to them by God in their particular moment of history.
You might think that these men had some kind of special gift because of what they did for the Church but fact is, their gift is shared by all baptized Christians. This is the moment in which their careers and ours started this is the moment in which the Good Lord makes each one of us Great. By our common baptism we are all called to do great things. The lesson we can learn from them is that they understood what was required of them to make the best out of their gifts and were not afraid to follow their purpose to the end.
So in this day, through the prayers and intersection of St Leo 1st may we too learn what is that great task the Lords wants us to do, and may we too be willing to follow were the spirit of God wants to take us. Amen.