MEMORIAL OF SAINT LEO THE GREAT, POPE AND DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH
I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brother.
For this reason, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty, yet I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love—and I, Paul, do this as an old man, and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus. I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful both to you and to me. I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might be of service to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel; but I preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced. Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother—especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand: I will repay it. I say nothing about your owing me even your own self. Yes, brother, let me have this benefit from you in the Lord! Refresh my heart in Christ.
(It is the Lord) who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord!
Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.”
Then he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. They will say to you, ‘Look there!’ or ‘Look here!’ Do not go, do not set off in pursuit. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must endure much suffering and be rejected by this generation.
Today’s scriptures could not be more timely. While many mourn for the hardness of hearts and for those who desire to destroy children in the womb, it is easy to understand anyone who would ask Jesus when the kingdom of God is coming. When is the race over? When will we triumph and have victory? When will everyone see that you reign supreme and we all owe you our hearts and our allegiance? It is easy to get caught up in current events, and to channel all of our hopes and desires for the kingdom of God into the outcome of an election. Even if we know that no election is the end, that there is always work to do, we still groan, longing for victory and the triumph of good, the triumph of life, and the triumph of light and understanding.
Jesus’ words should refocus us today. There is no setting up of the kingdom of God on earth as we would desire to see it. There has never been a golden time of the Church when there was no sin. There has never been a golden time in human history when no one championed death. Rather, Jesus tells us, that the kingdom of God is among us. This means that the kingdom of God comes about when any individual chooses God and chooses life over darkness and death. This means that the kingdom of God comes about when any individual chooses to love their neighbor instead of sinning against them. That means the kingdom of God comes about when any individual anywhere chooses to be a citizen of the kingdom of God over a citizen of any country on earth.
For us, the lowly and weak mortals, the frustrating part is this subtle and slow bringing about of the kingdom of God. We always want to skip to the end. We always want to see the finished product. We always want to say that the work is done, that it has been accomplished. But if the building up of the kingdom of God is done one heart at a time, it can be difficult for us to feel the progress. But we must stay firm. We must endure even in the difficult times. We must keep growing the kingdom of God one heart at a time, so that the good work of those hearts we meet “might be voluntary and not something forced,” as St. Paul writes.
Today, let us pray for encouragement. Let us ask God to show us his kingdom among our fellow Christians. Let us pray that we will stand firm, that we will always trust in the Lord, and that we will never cease working to bring about the kingdom of God one heart at a time.