Cheerfully Giving Ourselves in Service of God and Others, Feast of St. Lawrence, August 10, 2013

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr
August 10, 2013
2 Cor 9:6-10, Ps 112, Jn 12:24-26

To listen to an audio of today’s homily, please click here: 

 

In this homily, the following points were made:

  • Jesus tells us in the Gospel that whoever serves him must follow him and that the Father will honor whoever serves him. To follow Jesus means to go the path of the grain of wheat, to die to oneself so as to bear fruit, something that Pope Benedict once described as the “essence of Christianity.” Today we celebrate the feast of a saint who did.
  • The Deacon St. Lawrence died in the persecution of Valerian in 258, four days after he Pope St. Sixtus and the other deacons of Rome were arrested in the Catacombs during the celebration of Mass. St. Lawrence was given a few days to round up all of the Church’s “treasures.” The Romans were trying to decapitate the Church of Rome by killing off its leaders and amassing and destroying all its good.
  • St. Lawrence followed the path of the grain of wheat first by his charity. The deacons in the early Church ran the diakonia, the charitable agencies, and so he was responsible for the distribution of everything to the poor, whom he served with great love. They were the ones who were assembled before the governor as the Church’s true treasure. St. Paul in today’s first reading said that God wants us to sow bountifully and cheerfully and St. Lawrence served them with all he had and with joy.
  • The second way he followed the path of the grain of wheat was through his martyrdom. He was roasted on a gridiron, a terribly painful way to die. But he was a cheerful giver here too. As he was being burned alive, he turned to his executioners and said perhaps the most famous comic line in all of hagiography: “Assum est. Versa et manduca,” roughly translated, “This side is cooked. Turn me over and take a bite.”
  • What do we learn from this feast? The first thing is the importance of charity, which Pope Benedict said in Deus Caritas Est is as essential to the faith as the proclamation of the Gospel and the celebration of the sacraments. It is something we are called to do bountifully and cheerfully. The second is that we need to die to ourselves with courage and joy. The more we do this in little things, the easier it will be to do it at the supreme moment. Third we learn the Church’s true treasure is its people, all its people, including those that are most under appreciated, like the poor, the very young, the very old, so valued by the Lord that he gave himself to save their lives.
  • We also learn the important and the principal purpose of deacons, to serve as ministers of charity, as icons of Christ who came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for the many. We pray for all the deacons of our diocese and throughout the world, those who are preparing for ordination in our Diocese on October 12 and all those whom the Lord is calling to this Holy Order to spearhead the Church’s continuation of Christ’s cheerful and bountiful sowing of himself as the grain of wheat — a sacrifice into which we enter every Mass — so that we might all bear this fruit of love.

The readings for today’s feast were: 

Reading 1
2 COR 9:6-10

Brothers and sisters:
Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,
and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion,
for God loves a cheerful giver.
Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you,
so that in all things, always having all you need,
you may have an abundance for every good work.
As it is written:He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.

The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food
will supply and multiply your seed
and increase the harvest of your righteousness.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 112:1-2, 5-6, 7-8, 9

R. (5) Blessed the man who is gracious and lends to those in need.
Blessed the man who fears the LORD,
who greatly delights in his commands.
His posterity shall be mighty upon the earth;
the upright generation shall be blessed.
R. Blessed the man who is gracious and lends to those in need.
Well for the man who is gracious and lends,
who conducts his affairs with justice;
He shall never be moved;
the just one shall be in everlasting remembrance.
R. Blessed the man who is gracious and lends to those in need.
An evil report he shall not fear;
his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.
His heart is steadfast; he shall not fear
till he looks down upon his foes.
R. Blessed the man who is gracious and lends to those in need.
Lavishly he gives to the poor,
his generosity shall endure forever;
his horn shall be exalted in glory.
R. Blessed the man who is gracious and lends to those in need.

Gospel
JN 12:24-26

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat;
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.
Whoever serves me must follow me,
and where I am, there also will my servant be.
The Father will honor whoever serves me.”