“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:24-25).
Today, the church remembers one of its greatest heroes; Saint Lawrence. He was a Roman deacon under Pope St. Sixtus II. As a deacon in Rome, Lawrence was charged with the responsibility for the material goods of the Church, and the distribution of alms to the poor. During a time of persecution, Lawrence knowing he would be arrested like the Pope, sought out the poor, widows and orphans of Rome and gave them all the money he had on hand, selling even the sacred vessels to increase the sum. When the prefect of Rome heard of this, he imagined that the Christians had a considerable treasure.
He sent for Lawrence and said, “You Christians say we are cruel to you, but that is not what I have in mind. I am told that your priests offer in gold, that the sacred blood is received in silver cups, that you have golden candlesticks at your evening services. Now, your doctrine says you must render to Caesar what is his. Bring these treasures—the emperor needs them to maintain his forces. God does not cause money to be counted: He brought none of it into the world with him—only words. Give me the money, therefore, and be rich in words.”
Lawrence replied that the Church was indeed rich. “I will show you a valuable part. But give me time to set everything in order and make an inventory.” After three days he gathered a great number of blind, lame, maimed, leprous, orphaned and widowed persons and put them in rows. When the prefect arrived, Lawrence simply said, “These are the treasure of the Church.”
The Prefect was so angry he had a great gridiron prepared, with coals beneath it, and had Lawrence’s body placed on it. Lawrence died like a piece of meat being roasted slowly over a hot charcoal fire. We remember him today especially for his heroic act of charity. As St. Paul teaches in today’s first reading: “He who sows sparingly reaps sparingly and he who sows bountifully also reaps bountifully.” (2 Cor. 9:6) God loves a cheerful giver.
St. Lawrence did not simply give to the poor; his giving was at the risk of his own life. Jesus says unless a grain of wheat falls and dies, it remains alone but after it dies, it bears much fruit. Whenever we make sacrifices for God’s sake, it is always painful but we must bear in mind that our pain, like the death of the seed buried under the ground, would eventually yield a great harvest.
Let us learn from Lawrence the need to be charitable and the willingness to let go of our life itself so that we can have a better life in heaven.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, like St. Lawrence, I may one day be with you in paradise. Amen.
Bible Study: 2 Corinthians 9:6-10, Psalm 112:1-9, John 12:24-26).