Fr. Stephen Muller, OCSO
Feast of St. Lawrence
2Cor 9:6-10; Jn 12:24-26
On reflecting upon St. Lawrence I guess you could come up with something called “gridiron spirituality”. You find yourself in an unpleasant state of affairs and there’s really no way out, so you decide to turn it over to God and make the best of the situation. Maybe it’s a health issue, maybe it’s a less-than-perfect marriage, maybe it’s being stuck in a traffic jam, maybe it’s being in a choir stall next to someone who smells.
We are instructed in our first reading, “Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Two words stand out here: “cheerful” and “giver”. St. Lawrence decided to choose a cheerful attitude. He didn’t get angry. He wasn’t resentful. He didn’t lapse into a pity-party. He didn’t make himself out to be a victim. He bore his sufferings with dignity and even joked with his executioners, “I’m done on this side. You can turn me over now.”
Secondly, he was a “giver”. Too often in life we want to be “takers”. But that’s selfish, and won’t bring us happiness in the end. Lasting happiness and inner peace come from being selfless and being “givers”. St. Lawrence knew he couldn’t get off the gridiron; he was stuck there. His freedom was taken away in that regard. But he still retained the freedom to choose how he was going to react to it. He chose to transcend himself, to die to self, to get away from “me, me, me” and “take, take, take” and become a giver. He united his sufferings with Christ’s suffering and death on the Cross. Instead of trying to preserve the grain of wheat, he let it die in the earth.
Our gospel reading so beautifully reminds us of the words of Jesus, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.”
The unseen power and results of that dying to self can be tremendous. At his death, Lawrence prayed for the conversion of Rome. He himself never saw the results, but we read in Butler’s Lives of the Saints: “Lawrence’s death put an end to idolatry in the city, and very soon the conversion of all Rome showed the power of his prayers” (August, p. 80). He became one of the most venerated martyrs of the Roman church, and the basilica dedicated to him is one of the seven Station Churches of Rome.
Yucky situations can be turned into gold if we handle them the right way. Let us imitate St. Lawrence and not pass up any opportunity.