Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon & Martyr | August 10, 2019
In the ritual for the ordination of Catholic deacons, after the sacrament or orders is administered by the bishop to the newly ordained deacons, the bishop encourages them with these words:
“Never allow yourselves to be turned away from the hope offered by the Gospel. Now you are not only hearers of this Gospel but also its ministers. Holding the mystery of faith with a clear conscience, express by your actions the Word of God which your lips proclaim…. Then, on the last day, when you go out to meet the Lord you will be able to hear him say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.”
Today the church commemorates one of its earliest deacon martyrs, St. Lawrence and today’s readings remind us of how he – and we – express in our actions the words of the Gospel which we proclaim.
We don’t know much about St. Lawrence, except that he lived in the 3rd century in Rome during a time of persecution of the church there. We know he had a reputation for being a joyful and kind persons, and we also know that he was a staunch defender, not only of the faith of the church, but of the People of God. When the prefect of Rome demanded he turn over the treasures of the church, he famously gathered the poor of the city and brought them to the prefect proclaiming “Behold in these poor persons the treasures which I promised to show you … which are the Church’s own.” It was that act of political and religious defiance that earned Lawrence a painful martyr’s death.
He is remembered, thus, for his courage as well.
Lawrence strikes me as the type of person St. Paul talked about in the first reading, someone who scattered the seed of his faith in the Gospel flagrantly like in Jesus’ parable about the sower, and he was rewarded with a harvest beyond his imagining – not only witnessing to the People of God in his time, but in ours as well, reaping a beautiful harvest and reminding us – especially in these times when those who are poor, especially our migrant brothers and sisters are not treasured nor respected – that we as church have a task also of lifting up and defending the poor. Indeed, basing our social and political and economic decisions first and foremost on how they will impact the poor and those on the margins is at the heart of Catholic teaching.
The Gospel of today also reminds us that being willing to give up all we have – even our lives – in service to Christ and his church is a call every Christian must respond to. Oh, we may not have to spill our blood as St. Lawrence did, though some in our world today have – think of St. Oscar Romero or Dr. Martin Luther King – but how do we spend the time we have? Do we consider how the seed of faith in our lives can be a source of new life for others and orient the time we have – and the relationship we have with others – to that end?
On this day, let us pray for the insight to consider how we are witnesses to God’s Word through speech and action and we pray for all those in ministry in our church, especially deacons.
God give you peace!
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As Director of Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), I have the opportunity to record video reflections on the readings of the Scriptures proclaimed at daily Mass. I do so as part of larger group of colleagues at the Conference, along with lay and ordained leaders from around the country. I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the readings for the life of faith today and to share them here, along with the written text of the reflections. To view these video reflections for past and upcoming celebrations of the Eucharist, visit the USCCB website.