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St. Leo the Great - The Beatitudes
True Riches Found in Poverty of Spirit
In his sermon on the Beatitudes, St. Leo the Great emphasizes that true blessedness is found in poverty of spirit - in not being attached to worldly possessions or riches, but rather seeking the eternal treasures of God's kingdom. He highlights how the Apostles exemplify this poverty of spirit, leaving everything to follow Christ and serve others. In healing the crippled beggar, St. Peter embodies this spiritual detachment - though he has no money, he can give the gift of healing through Christ's power. This act brings physical restoration to one man but also strengthens the faith of thousands.
According to St. Leo, while material inequality exists, there is equality in humility and spiritual blessings if our hearts are detached from earthly things. The path to this poverty of spirit is through gentleness, generosity and restoring the likeness of Christ in others, as the Apostles did. This is the blessing found in poverty of spirit.
From a sermon on the Beatitudes by Saint Leo the Great
Blessed are the poor in spirit
There is no doubt that the poor find it easier than the rich to receive the blessing of humility; for gentleness goes with poverty just as pride more commonly goes with riches. Nevertheless, very many rich people find that their wealth does not swell them up with pride: rather, they do good and benevolent things with it. For these people the greatest treasure is what they spend in relieving the distress and hardship of others.
In the virtue of humility men of every kind and every standing meet together, because though they differ in their means they share a common purpose. Their inequality of wealth makes no difference if they are equal in spiritual blessings.
What kind of poverty, then, is blessed? The kind that is not in love with earthly things and does not seek worldly riches: the kind that longs to be filled with the blessings of heaven.
After our Lord himself, the Apostles have given us the best example of this greatness of heart in poverty. When their Master called, they instantly left behind all that they possessed, and from catching fish they turned swiftly to fishing for men. Their example inspired many to emulate their faith and so become like them: it was at this time that these first sons of the Church were of one heart and there was one spirit among believers. With all their possessions stripped away they received the riches of eternal blessings, and through the Apostles’ preaching they rejoiced at having nothing that the world could give and possessing all things with Christ.
So it was that when the blessed apostle Peter was going up into the Temple and the cripple begged him for alms, he replied I have neither silver nor gold, but I will give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk! What could be higher than this lowliness? What could be richer than this poverty? He cannot give the support of money but he can give the gift of a restored nature. From the womb his mother brought him forth a cripple; by a word Peter raises him up to health. He did not give the image of Caesar stamped on a coin but he restored the image of Christ in the man himself.
The man who was given the power to walk was not the only one to receive help from this rich treasure. From the same act of miraculous healing five thousand men received the gift of faith in the Apostle’s teaching. The poor man who could give nothing of what he was asked for restored one lame man to his feet but also healed the hearts of thousands: he found them lame and brought them to be lithe and agile in Christ.
Let Us Pray
Help me to seek the poverty of spirit that brings true blessedness, not clinging to worldly possessions or riches but detaching my heart from all that is temporary. Teach me to find my treasure in you alone - in living generously, in serving others, in becoming more gentle and Christ-like each day.
Lord Jesus, make me an instrument of your healing power like St. Peter. Though I may lack material resources, help me give the gifts of faith, hope and love through my words and actions. Use me to restore your image in those who are hurting or lost.
Holy Spirit, fill my heart with the eternal riches of God's kingdom. Free me from disordered attachments and worldly desires. Cultivate in me a spirit of humility, equality and spiritual blessing. May I follow the Apostles' example of leaving all to find all in you.
Transform my poverty into an abundance for others. Make me a channel of your grace. Teach me the freedom and joy of poverty of spirit, that I may be truly blessed and share those blessings with all in need.