10th November.Tuesday of Week 32.

Saint Leo the Great (see below)

1st Reading: Wisdom 2:23-3:9

The dead may seem extinct, but their souls are in peace

God created us for incorruption, and made us in the image of his own eternity, but through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his company experience it.

But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be a disaster, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace. For though in the sight of others they were punished, their hope is full of immortality. Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them.

In the time of their visitation they will shine forth, and will run like sparks through the stubble. They will govern nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord will reign over them forever. Those who trust in him will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with him in love, because grace and mercy are upon his holy ones, and he watches over his elect.

Gospel: Luke 17:7-10

We are servants who have done no more than our duty

“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from ploughing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”


Saint Leo the Great, pope and doctor of the Church.

Leo I (c. 400-461) from Tuscany, was the first pope to have been called “the Great.” He succeeded Sixtus III as bishop of Rome in 440 and in 452 persuaded Attila the Hun to turn back from his invasion of Italy. He is most remembered theologically for writing the Tome which guided the debates of the Council of Chalcedon. Leo understood Christ’s being as the hypostatic union of two natures–divine and human–indivisibly united in one person.

The Afterlife

A belief articulated late in the Old Testament era is that God imbued human beings with something imperishable, based on the divine nature. Each of us, regardless of race, gender or wealth, has a spark of God’s own nature. In the end, heaven will so surpass our expectations and all our endeavours, that we will exclaim, “We are useless servants, who have done no more than our duty.”

We begin life created to the divine image; we end it by discovering the fullness of that image in Jesus Christ, when he returns in glory. In between, we trudge or trot along the human path of life. The human life on planet earth, somehow or other in God’s mysterious ways, allows us to grow into the divine image implanted at the start. Wisdom, the latest Old Testament book, offers this understanding of life. It praises those who have paid for their ideals with their lives, As gold in the furnace, God tested them, and took them himself. Life provides the testing-place, the furnace that can refine the divine image in us. Similarly we read in Hebrews, “after being chastened a little, they shall be greatly blessed.”

In today’s parable Jesus seems to accept customs which are not acceptable today; but he is simply drawing his parable from the realities of life about him. He refers to slavery and to what a master can expect from the slave. For work well done the master would not necessarily show gratitude, because the slave was just doing his job. Jesus did not endorse slavery; rather he prepared the way for its abolition by emphasizing the dignity of everyone. But he insists that the eternity God has in store for us will far surpass our human merits. It is a comforting thought that God blesses us much more than we can ever deserve.


Struggling with pride

Pride is something we probably all struggle with. The more good we appear to be doing, the more we can be tempted to pride. The parable in today’s gospel warns against that tendency to pride on the part of those who do their duty and, indeed, do it well. In the gospel, Jesus declares, “When you have done all you have been told to do, say, œwe are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty .” In another parable Jesus spoke, the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, the Pharisee displayed of the dutiful person; he boasted of the good life that he lived, and seemed to be of the view that his virtue gave him a claim on God. However, no matter how well we live, no matter how much we do what God asks of us, we never have a claim on God. The good news is that we don’t need a claim on God; we don’t need to score points to be sure of God’s favour. God has favoured us and keeps favouring us by giving us his Son. In response to that gift, we try to serve God faithfully, by doing his will, in so far as we can discern it. Our faithful service of the Lord will always be only a pale reflection of the Lord’s faithful service of us. (Martin Hogan)

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