Saturday, 10 August 2019 : Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we gather together to celebrate the feast of St. Lawrence the Deacon, a renowned and holy martyr of the faith, and one of the great inspirations to many Christians throughout the centuries. St. Lawrence the Deacon was one of the most prominent early churchmen, being one of the deacons of the Church of Rome, among the most respected positions in Christendom, as the direct assistant to the Vicar of Christ, the Pope in Rome.

St. Lawrence the Deacon was entrusted with great responsibilities in managing the daily affairs of the Church of Rome, taking care of the treasures and riches of the Church, managing the distribution of its goods and resources to those who were in need, taking care of almsgiving and charitable works in the Christian community just as how the order of the Diaconate was initiated for.

At that time, being a Christian meant great suffering and high probability of being arrested, persecuted and martyred, as the position of the civil government of the Roman Empire at the time was that of opposition and persecution of all Christians throughout the realm of the Empire. The Roman Emperor at that time, Valerian, was in particular harsh in his persecution and oppression of Christians, ordering the arrest of all Christians.

The Emperor ordered that all the leaders of the Church, the bishops, priests and deacons were to be arrested and killed right away, and that included St. Lawrence the Deacon and the Pope. The then Pope, Pope St. Sixtus II, whose feast we have just celebrated very recently also, was martyred in this manner, and followed not long afterwards by St. Lawrence himself. St. Lawrence was ordered to surrender the riches of the Church under his care and stewardship to the Roman state.

St. Lawrence courageously did all that he could in order to distribute discreetly all the resources of the Church as much as possible to the Christian community to avoid all of them being seized by the Roman state, and then defiantly presenting to the Roman prefect sent to seize the resources and wealth of the Church, poor, crippled and suffering people as the true treasures of the Church, declaring that the Church is truly richer than the Emperor. He was then martyred for his faith and courage.

What St. Lawrence meant was that, despite all the riches of the world, all the things that this world and its rulers and people can boast of having, none of these can compare to the true treasure that can be found in the Lord alone, through His Church. For God is the foundation and the heart of the Church, the One uniting all the believers and the whole body of the Christian community, and in God alone we can find true glory, true happiness and satisfaction.

And that corresponds to what we have heard in our Scripture passages today, in what we have heard from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in the city of Corinth speaking about the matter of sowing and reaping the benefit of what has been sown, and those who sow generously will also reap generous benefits as well, and vice versa. This reminds us of the need to be true witnesses of the Lord and be devoted to Him wholeheartedly as part of our ‘sowing’ of the faith in our own lives.

And in the Gospel passage today, the Lord spoke of the famous words, ‘unless a grain of wheat falls onto the ground and dies, it remains as a single grain, but if it dies, it will produce generous crops.’ This is in fact connected to what had happened to St. Lawrence and the numerous other martyrs of the Church who had suffered and even given their lives for the greater glory and for the service to God.

They remained true to their faith and were faithful to God, rather than seeking their own safety and the assurances of the world, so that by their courageous defence of their faith, by their exemplary piety and commitment to God, Christians of other times and ages may be inspired by their examples, and learn to follow the Lord as they have done. Indeed, the examples set by these holy martyrs, St. Lawrence and his many other companions in faith have inspired countless Christians throughout time, and I am sure that include many of us as well.

Now, brothers and sisters, we are all therefore challenged to be exemplary in our own lives and in how we live up to our faith as our holy predecessors had done. Are we able to follow the Lord in that way? Are we able to commit ourselves and follow Him with true love and sincerity from now on? Let us all be examples to one another, that by our lives and by our faith, we may become witnesses of our faith in God, and bear His truth to the world, as St. Lawrence and many of our holy predecessors had done. Amen.

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