Thursday, August 10, 2006

Thursday in the 18th Week of Ordinary Time (II)
Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon, Martyr
Generosity and Martyrdom

Readings: 2 Corinthians 9:6-10; Psalm 112:1-2, 5-6, 7-8, 9; Jonah 12:24-26

Quite obviously, today’s proper readings for the feast of St. Lawrence bring out key aspects of the saint’s life and death. In speaking of the importance of sowing bountifully, of giving to the poor, and lending to those in need, the first reading and the psalm bring out Deacon Lawrence’s generosity to God, as well as his love and service of the poor. In particular, we remember how, when asked by his persecutors for the treasures of the church, Lawrence pointed to those to whom he was distributing alms and said: these are the treasures of the church. And by speaking of the grain of wheat that falls into the ground and dies, the gospel brings out the deeper significance of Lawrence’s martyrdom.

Thus do the readings highlight Lawrence’s generosity and martyrdom. As we reflect on these qualities, we may perhaps find it easier to identify with the first. Is it not more likely that we be called to put something in the envelope during Catholic Charities Week than be put to death for the faith? There is perhaps a natural tendency for us to think that whilst all Christians are called to be generous, few are called to martyrdom. I remember how, for example, after listening to a talk on the Cross in the Christian life, someone approached the speaker and pointed out that not all saints are martyrs.

Yet, we might consider whether the two qualities are all that different. Isn’t Lawrence’s courage in the face of suffering and death but another aspect of the generosity that made him willing to give all for God and for the service of God’s people? And even if not all Christians are called to die the way the martyrs do, aren’t we all called to carry our own crosses everyday in order to follow our crucified and risen Lord?

Today, when many are turning to religion for consolation and strength, it is tempting for us who are Christian to downplay the sacrificial aspect of our faith. But what is our belief without the cross? On the contrary, today’s readings bear a message that is especially needed today: that although generosity and martyrdom both entail loss in some form, both lead to great gain. In the harvest field of the Lord, sowing bountifully means reaping bountifully. And the seed that falls into the ground dies only to bear much fruit.

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