Monday, August 10, 2009

Blessed Are They Who Give To Those In Need (Psalm 112)

St Lawrence was martyred in Rome in 258 during the persecution under the Roman emperor Valerian. He was among the seven deacons serving Pope St Sixtus II, who was martyred a few days before Lawrence. When he was challenged to hand over the Church’s treasure to the authorities, he asked for a few days’ grace; then “he went all over the city, seeking out in every street the poor who were supported by the Church, and with whom no other was so well acquainted. On the third day, he gathered together a great number of them before the church and placed them in rows: the decrepit, the blind, the lame, the maimed, the lepers, orphans and widows; then he went to the prefect, invited him to come and see the treasure of the Church.”

I share with my paternal grandfather Lawrence’s name (as our middle name), and his patronage. I remember a booklet of brief lives of the saints written by Jesuit Father Daniel Lord, in which there was an engraved image of Lawrence being roasted on a gridiron, and the accompanying text which included these words attributed to the martyr: “Turn me over; I’m done on this side!” Although Father Lord, like Saint Ambrose of Milan, accepted the narrative of the Latin poet Prudentius, Lawrence the deacon was probably beheaded.

Be that as it may, it is likely that, like my grandfather and my father, I will not be martyred, but die in bed, certainly not six months past my 40th birthday, like my namesake, and perhaps not nine months short of my 90th birthday, like my father. But the value of a human life is not measured by the length of days, but by the good that is accomplished by those of us who live long enough to make decisions for ourselves.

That is why all of us should keep these lessons in tilling the soul:*

Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Everyone should give what they have decided in their heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. There is no limit to the blessings which God will send you, and he will ensure that you will always have what you need for yourselves in any and all circumstances, and still have enough to spare for all sorts of good works. As Scripture says: "He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever. The one who provides seed to be sown and bread to be eaten will provide all you need, and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. (2 Corinthians 9:6-10)

Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. (John 12:24-26)

*There is no spelling error in this sentence.

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