BLOG: Our Profit Matches Our Toil

Categories: Featured,Monk Reflections

St Leo the GreatWeek 34 of Ordinary Time, Monday (November 26, 2012), we heard a sermon from (one of my very favorites!)  Pope St. Leo I, the Great.  Leo I reigned as Pope from 440-461.  Leo I was the first of the popes to be given the title “the Great.”  This blog is not intended as a biographical sketch of Leo I, but rather a personal reflection of Pope Leo’s sermons, the aforementioned sermon in particular.

Leo I’s sermons have a timeless dimension to them, because his sermons penetrate the heart of Christian spirituality.  For this reason, Leo I’s sermons go beyond any sense of being “dated” or of a particular doctrinal, dogmatic understanding of God and our relationship at a particular century or moment in history.  Any serious student of the history regarding the Scriptures, or history of the Church, understands that the relationship of God to humanity is an ever perpetual state of “becoming;” both on an individual and universal level.  For proof, one need only prayerfully and attentively read/listen to the testament of those living before the time of Jesus, during Jesus lifetime, and after Jesus’ Ascension to Heaven to see how this understanding has been defined, re-defined, and will continue to be re-defined (John 14:12; Acts 2:17-21).  Again, this relationship of God to humanity is not “set” or “stagnant” but ever “becoming.”

To quote from the sermon of Pope St. Leo I, the Great:

“The Lord says:  ‘Unless your justice exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.’

“….This is how Christian justice can exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees, not by canceling out the law but by rejecting earthly wisdom.”


Leo I alludes to the idea that earthly wisdom ultimately seeks human praise and not the greater glory of God as its reward.  The Pope goes on to declare:

“Such a desire (for human praise or judgment of others) puts on a mask of justice, for where there is no concern for conscience, untruthful reputation gives pleasure.  The result is that concealed injustice enjoys a false reputation (whether this false reputation pertains to self or in so judging another person).”


The heart of Pope Leo’s sermon reads:

“For the person who loves God it is sufficient to please The One loved; and there is no greater recompense to be sought than the loving itself….The good and chaste soul is so happy to be filled with God that the soul desires to take delight in nothing else.  For what the Lord says is very true:  ‘Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

“….Our profit matches our toil; and where delight and enjoyment are found, there the heart’s desire is attached….If our toil is based on fulfilling earthly ambitions, the acquisition makes us not blessed but wretched….”


St. Margaret of Cortona (1247-1297), a Third Order Franciscan, in response to the both persecution by, and innate snobbery of, her fellow Christians put it best:

“I see more Pharisees among the self-proclaimed Christians of today than there were surrounding Pilate.”

Author: Br. Joseph Heath

Bother Joseph worked previously as a Youth Specialist with the Covenant House "Under 21" program in New York City, as a Revenue Clerk with Chase Manhattan Bank in New York City, and as a Baker/Assistant Production Manager in Belmar, New Jersey. He received his education from Arkansas Tech University and St. John's College (Santa Fe, New Mexico). He teaches in the Academy such subjects as AP U.S. Government, U.S. History, Church History, and World Religions. He serves in the Abbey on our Abbey Council, and as one of the three monks who coordinated our Strategic Planning for the Abbey. He professed his vows as a monk on August 23, 1992.

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