Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together the great feast of one of the Church’s most renowned saints, namely St. Lawrence the Deacon, also known as St. Lawrence of Rome. He was a most courageous servant of God and His Church, as he dedicated his life and efforts to serve the Lord in everything, even to the very end. He died a martyr in defending his faith and his Church, in showing the world and even those who oppressed the Church, what being Christians is all about.
St. Lawrence was one of the seven deacons of the Diocese of Rome, which means that he served directly under the Pope, the Vicar of Christ and the Bishop of Rome, the leader of the Universal Church. And as a deacon, he assisted in the important matters of the Church, which is made even more important due to the position of Rome as the Apostolic See and the Heart of the entire Christendom. St. Lawrence was in charge of works and efforts that are done by the Cardinals and the heads of the Roman Curia today, in managing the affairs of the Church, both in Rome and in relations to the wider, Universal Church.
St. Lawrence was the assistant of Pope St. Sixtus II, another great saint of the Church whose feast day we have celebrated just a few days ago, as their martyrdom happened just within moments of each other, with both persecuted and martyred under the rule of the Roman Emperor Valerian. St. Lawrence was the first among the seven deacons of the Church of Rome, and therefore sometimes is known as the Archdeacon of Rome. He was in charge of the Church treasury and the distribution of those goods to the Christian communities, especially to the poor.
At that time, persecution against the Church, Christians and their leaders were being ramped up and intensified, as the Emperor ordered the Church leaders and members of the faithful to be arrested and their properties and wealth seized for the state. And the Emperor also then released an order stating that all the leaders of the Church, the bishops, priests and deacons to be killed immediately even without trial. Pope St. Sixtus II was one of those who fell victim to this intensified persecution, as he was seized during the liturgical celebrations and then immediately executed.
The Roman prefect of the city demanded St. Lawrence, who was in charge of the Church treasury to surrender all the properties and wealth of the Church to the Roman state as per the law decreed by the Emperor. In order to avoid this, St. Lawrence quickly arranged to distribute all the wealth and properties of the Church under his care to the poor and destitute in particular while requesting for three days time so that he would be able to complete the distribution of all the goods and the properties.
When the prefect demanded to get the Church properties, St. Lawrence famously brought the poor and the destitute, the least and last among the society and showed them before the prefect, and said that those were the treasures of the Church. This angered the prefect so much that he ordered the execution of St. Lawrence, who was martyred by burning with gridirons. He defended his faith to the very end, and showed Christian charity and love to those who need them the most, even in the midst of bitter sufferings and persecutions.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is in essence what we have also heard in our first reading today from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, as the Apostle reminded them that all those who have done good deeds and obeyed the Lord’s Law and commandments will be blessed by the Lord and will be righteous and worthy, of the Lord’s grace and blessings. We are all called to do our best, in giving ourselves for the cause of the Lord, and to give ourselves to care for our fellow brethren, to show love, empathy and compassion for each other.
Today we are all also called to remember the Lord’s words in our Gospel passage today, as we heard Him speaking to His disciples reminding them that those who follow Him, they ought to serve Him and commit themselves to Him, and dedicate their hearts and minds wholly to Him. They should also die to themselves, which means that they ought to let go of their pride and ego, their desires and wishes, and their attachments to worldly pleasures and corruptions. And they should be selfless rather than selfish, to empty themselves from the excesses of the world.
That was exactly what St. Lawrence had done in his life and ministry, brothers and sisters in Christ, as he gave himself totally and completely to the Lord and to His people, finding joy and comfort in the true treasures of the Church, that is the people of God, of every races and nations, even the poor, the destitute, the last and the least in the community, all have a place in God’s kingdom. And all of us should indeed aspire to follow in the footsteps of this great servant of God, our holy predecessor, by emulating his life and examples in our own lives.
May the Lord continue to guide us through life and give us the strength and courage to live our lives with faith, with each and every moments, so that we may draw ever closer to Him, and that we may be ever more faithful and committed to Him. May God bless us all in our every good endeavours and efforts, and may St. Lawrence intercede for us all, sinners in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness. Amen.