10 November 2006: St. Leo the Great
Philippians 3, 17 -4,1; Luke 16, 1-8
St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians said, “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, beloved” (Phil 4,1). Paul did not hide his affection to the Philippians whom he longed for and loved. He called them his “crown.” What does crown mean?
There are two words in Greek that refers to a crown. First, the diadēma. The diadēma is the king’s crown, the symbol of kingly rule and leadership. Second, the stephanos. The stephanos is the word Paul used. The stephanos has two usages. It is the crown that athletes aspire for. It is made of olive branches, parsley, and bay leaves. The stephanos is also the crown given to guests by hosts in a celebration.
When Paul used stephanos to refer to the Philippians, he is saying that the Philippians are the cause of his rejoicing. He celebrates their faith and their friendship. It is the feeling of parents, when they learn of their child’s achievement, and the say, “Anak ko ‘yan” (He is my son/She is my daughter). I am proud of him/her. Or, it is the feeling of a teacher who learns that one of his students have been recognized for exemplary work. It does not mean that Paul or parents or teachers attribute their success to themselves, but that they celebrate because they have been instruments to their virtue. For Paul, the Philippians are the people he gained for Christ. As many saints would attribute their glory: St. Francis Xavier might have poured water on the heads of many children in baptism, but it was God who made them Christians.
So today, let us reflect on our lives and ask who are our ‘crown.’ Who are the people whom we have gained for Christ. And then, we rejoice and celebrate because somehow, despite our sinful lives and our imperfection, God has used us to bring people to salvation. As St. Paul rejoiced even in the prisons of Rome, we too should find all cause for celebration. Because our faith is a faith of joy and hope!