2 Cor 9:6-10; Ps 112:1-9; Jn 12:24-26
Just three days ago the Church celebrated a memorial in honor of the martyr, Pope Saint Sixtus II, today we honor one of his Deacons, Saint Lawrence. Devotion to this holy martyr is reflected in the liturgical reference, feast. A memorial can be suppressed in the liturgy in deference to “Ordinary Time.” Today we wear red the color that commemorates the total self-sacrifice of one who gave everything, every drop of his blood. Little is known about this well loved martyr, but he is given a feast. There are legends about his wonderful sense of humor that was not comical to the Roman government. Deacon Lawrence was commanded to turn over to Caesar what belongs to him, all the treasures of the Church. As a Deacon the Church had entrusted to Saint Lawrence all its resources, and he gave over this wealth to the poor because he knew that, like his Pope, soon he would die for the faith. He even sold the precious vessels of the altar to help cover the needs of the poor. In response to the government he gathered the poor and powerless of Rome and declared, “here is the true treasure of the Church.” They were not amused; they made this brazen Deacon suffer over a fire that consumed his body and delighted his soul. It is said that his last words were, “I’m done on this side turn me over now.” Emperor Valerian had created another heroic witness for the dangerous group of Christians. What we know of Deacon Saint Lawrence is that he gave his life for Christ, and that is enough. Indeed we are summoned by his heroic self-sacrifice to give everything for the Lord Jesus Christ. Like him we shall never be moved; indeed we fear not an evil report. Our hearts are firm, trusting in the LORD. Lavishly Saint Lawrence gave to the poor, his generosity shall endure forever; his horn shall be exalted in glory.
In his preaching to the Church at Corinth, Saint Paul summons the believer to the kind of total generosity that is seen in the martyrdom of Saint Lawrence. Those who sow sparingly will reap sparingly, and those who sow bountifully will also reap bountifully. Saint Lawrence gave his life without sadness or compulsion; he was a cheerful giver. Indeed, his cheerfulness was an offense to his oppressors. This abundant confidence in the Lord Jesus took away the power of his executioners. Indeed, the abundant grace of his faith made him courageous and capable of the good work of self-sacrifice. In this Saint Lawrence became the seed of the faith for generations to come; the LORD supplied seed for the sower and bread for all in need of inspiration. The witness of this cheerful Deacon increased the harvest of God’s own righteousness. The Church today desperately needs such heroic witness as we confront the oppressors of our own time. Those who distort our witness to the value of human life from natural beginning to natural end must be confronted with the cheerful self-sacrifice of believers. Indeed, we must be willing to give comfort to those who bear life within and have no one to turn to because of the fear of scandal or the difficulty of bringing someone to birth or offering support to those near to dying. Christian witness today must be a bold and generous as the holy and cheerful Deacon Saint Lawrence.
The preaching of Saint Paul translates for his congregation the instruction of the Divine Teacher found in today’s Gospel. Saint John recalls the severe command of the Lord Jesus for anyone who calls himself a disciple. We are like grains of wheat that falls to the ground; the Sower is Christ, and we are the seed. Unless we die to ourselves, unless we give up our identity as a seed, we remain just a grain of wheat. If we die to ourselves, if we choose to be faithful to our baptism, we produce much fruit. Our union with Christ bears the abundant harvest of The Holy Spirit: peace, love, joy, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. “Against such as these there is no law.” No oppressive government can crush such virtue; no power can overwhelm such goodness. Ultimately good will triumph, and the Kingdom will come. His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Only when we love our life in Christ enough to sacrifice it in this world will we preserve it for eternity. Indeed, whoever serves the Lord Jesus will follow him all the way to the Cross and into the Glory. Our union with Christ in Baptism and in this Eucharist enables us to participate in the divinity of the Servant of God. Where He is, there will his servant be, and Our Father will honor whoever serves His Son.