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I don’t know that there are many who would have come face-to-face with Attila the Hun, opposed him, and lived to tell the tale, but our saint for today, Leo the Great, was one who did and in the process, convinced him not to sack Rome. However it came about, Leo would later be elected as Bishop of Rome in the year 440 and hold the position until his death on November 10, 461. He received the title “the Great” because of his great work while holding the position.
As I was reading on him, I was struck by a passage from one of his sermons: “There are two loves from which all wishes proceed, and they are as different in quality as they are different in their sources. For the reasonable soul, which cannot exist without love, is the lover either of God or the world… As the world attracts us with its appearance and abundance and variety, it is not easy to turn away from it unless in the beauty of things visible the Creator rather than the creature is loved; for, when He says, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind (Matt. 22:37),’ He wishes us in nothing to loosen ourselves from the bonds of His love.” (Leo the Great, Sermon XC, ch. iii)
“As the world attracts us with its appearance and abundance and variety, it is not easy to turn away from it…” Ever go shopping for a pair of socks and end up walking out of the store with a new suit or a new purse? Ever been in one relationship, only to find that you are suddenly attracted to someone else? Ever sit down, fully intent on saying your prayers, and half an hour later, find yourself cruising the internet? Yes. The world does attract us with its appearance, abundance, and variety, and it really can be difficult to turn away from. As we know, its appearance, abundance, and variety can also draw us away from God. In one instance, we are bathed in the light of the Gospel and in the next… off we go, wandering off into dark recesses.
Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.” How do we lose our saltiness? Jesus said, “No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house.” How is it we put our light under a basket? We lose our saltiness and hide our light by allowing the attractions of this world to draw us in, and love them more than we love the One who created them. How do we avoid the trap? To use the language of Leo, don’t allow any attraction of this world, no matter how beautiful, to loosen the bonds of love that you have for the Creator—for God. Always keep Him as the center, the focus of your every action and thought, and in this way, you will remain the salt of the earth and the light of the world.