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Excerpts from a sermon on the beatitudes by Saint Leo the Great, pope


Blessed, Christ says, are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. It might have been unclear to which poor He was referring, if after the words Blessed are the poor, He had not added anything about the kind of poor He had in mind. For then the poverty that many suffer because of grave and harsh necessity might seem sufficient to merit the Kingdom of Heaven. But when He says: Blessed are the poor in spirit, He shows that the Kingdom of Heaven is to be given to those who are distinguished by their humility of soul rather than by their lack of worldly goods.

—Saint Leo the Great, pope
(Office of Readings,
Thursday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time)


Living in Poverty

Bt cannot be doubted that the poor can more easily attain the blessing of humility than those who are rich. In the case of the poor, the lack of worldly goods is often accompanied by a quiet gentleness, whereas the rich are more prone to arrogance.

Nevertheless, many rich people are disposed to use their wealth not to swell their own pride but to perform good and benevolent things. For these people the greatest treasure is what they spend in relieving the distress and hardship of others.

This virtue of benevolence is open to all, no matter what their class or condition, because all can be equal in their willingness to give, however unequal they may be in earthly fortune. Indeed, their inequality in regard to worldly wealth makes no difference if they are equal in spiritual blessings.

Blessed, therefore, is that poverty which is not trapped by the love of earthly things and does not seek to be enriched by worldly riches, but desires rather to grow rich in the blessings of heaven.

—Saint Leo the Great, pope
(Office of Readings,
Friday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time)


Religious Grief

Bfter preaching the blessings of poverty, the Lord went on to say, Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted. But the mourning for which He promises eternal consolation, dearly beloved, has nothing to do with ordinary worldly distress; for the tears which have their origin in the sorrow common to all mankind do not make anyone blessed. There is another cause for the sighs of the saints, another reason for their blessed tears. Religious grief mourns for sin, one’s own or another’s; it does not lament because of what occurs as a result of God’s justice, but because of what is done by human malice. Indeed, the one who does wrong is more to be lamented than the one who suffers it, for wickedness plunges the sinner into doom, whereas endurance can raise the just one to glory.

—Saint Leo the Great, pope
(Office of Readings,
Saturday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time)


Desire for God

Bhen the soul hears the voice of the Spirit saying to it through the prophet: Taste and see that the Lord is good, it has already received a portion of God’s goodness, and is on fire with love, the love that gives joy of the utmost purity. It counts as nothing all that belongs to time; it is entirely consumed with desire to eat and drink the food of righteousness. The soul lays hold of the true meaning of the first and great commandment: You shall love the Lord God with your whole heart, and your whole mind and your whole strength, for to love God is nothing else than to love righteousness.

Remember, Christian, the surpassing worth of the wisdom that is yours. Bear in mind the kind of school in which you are to learn your skills, the rewards to which you are called. Mercy itself wishes you to be merciful, righteousness itself wishes you to be righteous, so that the Creator may shine forth in His creature, and the image of God be reflected in the mirror of the human heart as it imitates His qualities. The faith of those who live their faith is a serene faith. What you long for will be given you; what you love will be yours for ever.

—Saint Leo the Great, pope
(Office of Readings,
Sunday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time)



Bhe blessedness of seeing God is justly promised to the pure of heart. For the eye that is unclean would not be able to see the brightness of the true light, and what would be joy to clear minds would be a torment to those that are defiled. Therefore, let the mists of worldly vanities be dispelled, and the inner eye be cleansed of all the filth of wickedness, so that the soul’s gaze may feast serenely upon the great vision of God.

It is to the attainment of this goal that the next words refer: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. This blessedness, dearly beloved, does not derive from any casual agreement or from any and every kind of harmony, but it pertains to what the Apostle says: Be at peace before the Lord, and to the words of the prophet: Those who love your law shall enjoy abundant peace; for them it is no stumbling block.

Even the most intimate bonds of friendship and the closest affinity of minds cannot truly lay claim to this peace if they are not in agreement with the will of God. Alliances based on evil desires, covenants of crime and pacts of vice—all lie outside the scope of this peace. Love of the world cannot be reconciled with love of God, and those who do not separate themselves from the children of this generation cannot join the company of the children of God. But those who keep God ever in their hearts, and are anxious to preserve the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace, never dissent from the eternal law as they speak the prayer of faith. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

These then are the peacemakers; they are bound together in holy harmony and are rightly given the heavenly title of children of God, co-heirs with Christ. And this is the reward they will receive for their love of God and neighbor: when their struggle with all temptation is finally over, there will be no further adversities to suffer or scandal to fear; but they will rest in the peace of God undisturbed, through our Lord Who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.

—Saint Leo the Great, pope
(Office of Readings,
Monday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time)


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