Written by Sr. Rosemary Finnegan, O.P..
Readings from: https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/111020.cfm
I must admit when I first read today’s gospel, I found this story difficult to understand. It seems as if the master is being a bit harsh and demanding to his servant, and surely ungrateful, for what his servant is doing for him. The servant comes in from a full day’s work in the field not to eat or relax, but to perform yet another task of serving the master’s meal. If the servant thinks that he has a compliment coming for this work, he is mistaken. In reality, this servant is doing what is expected of him. It reminded me of how often even in our own day we see our soldiers, police, or firefighters interviewed after their part in some dramatic event, and their response is “I’m just doing my job.”
For us, too, as servant disciples of the Lord, we shouldn’t expect to receive special recognition. Discipleship is not about earning and deserving; it’s about believing and serving. To meet only our obligations is nothing out of the ordinary; it is the extra-ordinary that should be our goal in our service to God and others. Discipleship involves faith, evangelizing and overcoming obstacles. It is nothing less than love in action. Discipleship demands much of us and is always challenging us as to how we can best serve others at any given moment.
The saint we celebrate today, St. Leo the Great, is an example of a servant disciple who became a great leader in our church. Little is known about his early life other than he was born near Tuscany around the 4th century. By 431, he was a well-known Deacon, and widely respected for his love for the Lord, intelligence and persuasive nature. He was also gifted in bringing reconciliation between disputing groups of Christians. In 440 he was elected Pope and during the next 20 years fought tirelessly to preserve the unity of the Church, to ensure the safety of his people from the invading barbarians which wanted to destroy the influence Christianity had on the culture. Leo actually went and courageously dialoged with the feared leader of the barbarians, Attila the Hun. Their dialog saved Rome.
Besides being a great administrator, Pope St. Leo also focused his energies on the pastoral care of his people. He energetically fostered works of charity in Rome to serve refugees and those most affected by famine and poverty. To him, to be a disciple in real time meant living the gospel message in a world filled with hurt and suffering.
He has been called one of the greatest popes in the history of our Church. In fact, only two other Popes have received the title “the Great”. He was also a prolific writer. Nearly 100 sermons and 150 letters of Pope Leo’s have been preserved and are still being read today. He fulfilled his office and vocation with dynamic faith, great pastoral care and excellence and has been declared a ‘doctor of the Church’, another title bestowed on only 36 other people in our Church.
Inspired by Pope St. Leo’s example of faith in action, may we be challenged to think about our own call to discipleship, wherever that calls us, and with whomever we find ourselves.