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Feast of Saint Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr

August 10, 2019

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St. Lawrence
Saint Lawrence. Mosaic from the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev.

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the feast of St. Lawrence who is noted for his love for those who were poor. Legend has it that Lawrence was demanded, before his martyrdom, to turn over the Church’s riches to the emperor Valerian. Instead, he distributed all the resources among the poor. Lawrence then gathered all these people, presenting them before Valerian with these words:

Behold in these poor persons
the treasures which I promised to show you –
these are the true treasures of the Church.

Lawrence was likely inspired by readings like today’s. In Corinthians, Paul encourages us to be cheerful givers. He says this delights God, the Giver of Divine Abundance, whom we are imitating.

John12_24 grain wheat

In our reading from John, Jesus says that only in dying to ourselves do we live – the ultimate generosity. He says that only by doing this can we truly follow him.

While these readings are clear and simple, they are so profound that we can hardly take in their message. What they ask of us is daunting! The encouragement Jesus gives us to respond to his challenge is this:

The Father will honor whoever serves me.

St. Lawrence believed and lived this promise. What about us?

Music: Before the Bread – Elizabeth Alexander

We all want our lives to be full and complete – to be “bread”. But there are many steps before the grain of wheat becomes bread, as captured in this elegant acapella canon.

Did You Say, “Die”?

Friday, August 10, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/081018.cfm

Today, in Mercy, on this feast of St. Lawrence, our readings are all about wheat. Then, again, they’re really not.

John 12_24 grain

The readings, of course, are about eternal life – lessons taught in symbols the listeners could relate to. The agrarian community of Jesus’ time understood clearly what happened to a grain of wheat when buried in the rich soil. They understood, too, how a single grain, fallen on the barn floor and lost underfoot, had no hope of life.

It is a powerful lesson about community, selflessness, and what we need to do to live a full and meaningful life. 

We have to die —  to our isolation, self-absorption, greed, objectification and domination over others, “me-firstness”. 

Basically, we have to resist the Seven Deadly Sins that make life “all about me”: 

  • Self-adulating pride
  • Vengeful anger
  • Depersonalizing lust
  • Ungrateful envy
  • Consumeristic gluttony
  • Mean Greed
  • Irresponsible laziness

To move beyond these sins, we must recognize, respect and care for others – all others – as children of God.

If we can do that, our grain of wheat will land in harmony with the faith community and will contribute to its abundant life – and to our own. That faith community might be as small as my family or as big as the world. But unless I live there in selflessness, I will never come to my full potential a human being.

Musical reflection: A Grain of Wheat ~ Torchbearers