A Homily for Thursday in the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Feast of St. Lawrence
Thursday, August 10, 2023
Holy Ghost Church – 8:00 Mass
2 Corinthians 9:6-10; Psalm 112:1-2, 5-6, 7-8, 9; John 12:24-26
Welcome to our Chesterton Academy students, parents and faculty! It’s good to have you here with us today to celebrate this holy sacrifice of the Mass.
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus says that “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.”
This is one of the many powerful and even shocking statements of Jesus. A similar statement by Jesus is found in all four of the Gospels, so we know that it’s very important. In John’s version today, the words “love” and “hate” are used. By loving our lives we lose them, but by hating our lives we preserve them.
The words “love” and “hate” here are not used in the way we normally use them. In this passage, Jesus is using the word “love” to refer to selfishness or self-centeredness. Focusing only on what is best for us without regard for what others need is what he means by loving our lives.
Jesus uses the word “hate” to refer to selflessness or sacrificial self-giving. This means that we should be concerned with what others need, even when it means that we won’t get what we want. In other words, whoever is selfish in life will lose everything in the end, but the one who is truly selfLESS and self-giving in life will ultimately gain everything.
Saint Lawrence, whom we honor today, was a deacon and martyr in the third century. History doesn’t tell us much about him, but a couple of surviving stories about him are deeply inspiring.
In 258 A.D., the Roman Emperor Valerian began a massive killing campaign, murdering numerous Christians in and around Rome. And one of his earliest victims was the Pope himself, Sixtus II. We celebrated his feast a few days ago.
It was said that before the Pope’s own martyrdom, he placed the young Deacon Lawrence in charge of the Church’s riches. It is said that these treasures included the legendary Holy Grail, which is claimed to be the chalice Christ used while celebrating the Last Supper.
This is an image of him that I keep on the front of my notebook to remind me that he is praying for me and that I should always try to follow his example. In this image he is holding the Holy Grail.
Back to our story. The Emperor Valerian, still blood-thirsty after killing the Pope, set his sights on Deacon Lawrence. Familiar with the Church’s riches, Valerian commanded Lawrence to turn over all the “treasures of the Church” or else he too would suffer a terrible death.
Lawrence asked for a few days to gather such a mass amount of wealth, to which Valerian agreed. Three days passed, and Valerian finally commanded Lawrence to deliver the “treasures”. So Lawrence, with much boldness, busted open the palace doors, and marched forward to Valerian’s throne.
But his hands were empty of gold and silver. Instead, parading behind him were all the poor, blind, and crippled citizens he could gather in three days. When he reached the throne, he bluntly explained to the Emperor that “these are the true treasures of the Church!”
Valerian was infuriated. He sentenced Lawrence not only to death, but death by torturous grilling. The executioners literally barbecued Lawrence to death on a large grill!
This act led to Lawrence’s greatest claim to fame. After a few minutes of being roasted, Lawrence turned to his executioners and said, “This side’s done, turn me over and have a bite.”
You can’t make this stuff up. And, to top it off, the Church has deemed Lawrence the patron saint of comedians, butchers, chefs, and roasters. Who says the Church doesn’t have a sense of humor?!
Lawrence is also one of the patron Saints of Rome and he’s also mentioned in the Roman Canon, also known as Eucharistic Prayer I, the prayer that Father will soon pray as he confects the Holy Eucharist. Listen for his name today as Father prays this prayer.
So, my dear friends in Christ, reflect today upon the high Christian calling we have been given to live a life that is completely selfless and self-giving in every way. If you find that you think mostly about yourself, rather than the needs of others, then try to change that habit.
Turn your eyes to God and to the service of others. Try to care more about the needs of those around you than your own concerns. Do this because this is what Jesus calls us to do, and, if He calls us to live such a selfless life, then we must know and believe that it is worth it in the end.
May St. Lawrence’s boldness and love for the poor guide us all to saintliness, teaching us to offer our own lives for those in need.
St. Lawrence, pray for us!