Pope Saint Leo the Great (c.400-461) was elected pope in 440. At a time of general disorder he did much to strengthen the influence of the Roman see. Although he was not a profound theologian, Leo’s teaching is clear and forceful. His Tome was accepted as a statement of Christological orthodoxy at the Council of Chalcedon (451). One hundred and forty-three of his letters and ninety six sermons have survived. The latter, which cover the whole of the liturgical year, have been published.
The sublime nature of God’s grace lies in this, my dear friends, that daily in our Christian hearts all our desires are transferred from what is earthbound to what is heavenly. Yet it is still true that our present life is lived with the Creator’s aid and is supported by his providence. It is the one and same Lord who bestows temporal blessings and who promises eternal blessings. There is a correspondence between two duties which we have of giving thanks to God. First of all for the fact that we are carried along by the hope of future happiness to the fulfilment of this great preparation. It is faith which gives us speed. And secondly, we are to honour and praise God for the goods which we receive annually. It is he who from the creation has granted the earth’s fruitfulness and who has established the cycles of fruit production in the various plants and seeds. He never abandons his decrees so that his kindly providence as Creator remains throughout the creation.
Whatever benefit the harvests, the vines and olives have brought to human use, all of it flows from the generosity of God’s goodness. In his delicate way he helps on the hesitant labours of the farmers by the varied nature of the elements. Thus it is that wind and rain, cold and heat, day and night, serve our needs. If the Lord did not grant increase with his habitual planting and watering, human reason by itself would not be able to carry through its tasks to the end. Consequently it is perfectly right and just that we should help others from the things which our heavenly Father has mercifully bestowed on us.
There are many who have no share in fields, vines, or olives. It is worthwhile remembering the poverty of these people so that, out of the plentifulness which God has given, they too may bless God with us for the fruitfulness of the earth. With the landowners they can also rejoice at having been given what is the common part of the poor and of the pilgrims; that barn is a truly happy one and worthy to have all its products multiplied from which the hunger of the poor and weak is satisfied, from which the pilgrim’s need is satisfied and from which the sick person’s desire is cared for. God’s justice allows these people to labour under various disabilities so that he may reward the lowly for their patience and the merciful for their kindness.
The most effective form of intercession for sin is in almsgiving and fasting; and prayer which is offered with such good works is quickly heard by God. As it is written, The merciful man does good to his own soul, and nothing is more personal than what we bestow on our neighbour. For the share of earthly commodities which is given to those in need becomes eternal wealth. The riches which are born of this kindness will not be diminished by use, nor subjected to any corruption. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall have mercy shown to them by God. God is the highest reward and the form of the commandment.
Friday 3rd October is the HARVEST FAST
God of abundance,
all good things come from you.
The world, full life,
reflects your glory and sings your praise.
You call us all to share fairly
the bounty of your creation,
and the gifts you give us.
But so many people
in this world of plenty
do not have enough to eat.
And so we ask you, God of all,
to create in us a desire
to make all things new.
So that through your goodness
all those in need may eat and be satisfied.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen
Catherine Gorman / CAFOD