Only to the extent that someone is living out this self transcendence of human existence is he truly human or does he become his true self. He becomes so, not by concerning himself with his self actualization, but by forgetting himself and giving himself, overlooking himself and focusing outward” Viktor Frankl (Austrian psychiatrist and psychotherapist. 1905-1997)
Brief story of St Lawrence (258 AD) : When Lawrence knew he would be arrested like the pope, he sought out the poor, widows and orphans of Rome and gave them all the money he had on hand, selling even the sacred vessels to increase the sum. When the prefect of Rome heard of this, he imagined that the Christians must have considerable treasure. He sent for Lawrence and said, “You Christians say we are cruel to you, but that is not what I have in mind. I am told that your priests offer in gold, that the sacred blood is received in silver cups, that you have golden candlesticks at your evening services. Now, your doctrine says you must render to Caesar what is his. Bring these treasures—the emperor needs them to maintain his forces. God does not cause money to be counted: He brought none of it into the world with him—only words. Give me the money, therefore, and be rich in words.”
Lawrence replied that the Church was indeed rich. “I will show you a valuable part. But give me time to set everything in order and make an inventory.” After three days he gathered a great number of blind, lame, maimed, leprous, orphaned and widowed persons and put them in rows. When the prefect arrived, Lawrence simply said, “These are the treasure of the Church.”
The prefect was so angry he told Lawrence that he would indeed have his wish to die—but it would be by inches. He had a great gridiron prepared, with coals beneath it, and had Lawrence ’s body placed on it. After the martyr had suffered the pain for a long time, the legend concludes, he made his famous cheerful remark, “It is well done. Turn me over!”
Gospel text (Jn 12:24-26): Jesus said, «Truly, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Those who love their life destroy it, and those who despise their life in this world keep it for everlasting life. Whoever wants to serve me, let him follow me and wherever I am, there shall my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him».
Today, the Church —through the liturgy of the Eucharist celebrating the feast of St. Lawrence, the roman martyr— reminds us that «there exists a testimony of coherence that all Christians must be willing to give, even at the cost of great sacrifice and suffering» (John Paul II).
Moral law is inviolable. This assertion, certainly contrasts with the relativistic environment abounding now a days, whereas we tend to easily adapt ethical demands to our personal comfort or to our own weaknesses. We shall certainly not find anyone admitting: —I am immoral; —I am unconscious; —I am a person without truth... Anyone admitting these facts would automatically and immediately disqualify himself.
The definite question would therefore be: what moral, what conscience and what truth are we talking about? It is evident that social peace and healthy coexistence cannot be based on a “moral à la carte”, where each one chooses his own way, without bearing in mind the inclinations and aspirations of the Creator as set out by our nature. This “moral”, far from leading us through the «paths of righteousness» towards the «green pastures» the Good Shepherd wants for us (cf. Ps 23:1-3), it would irremediably take us to the quicksand of the “moral relativism”, where absolutely everything can be debated, agreed upon and justified.
Martyrs are unappealable testimonies of the saintliness of the moral law: there are basic demands of love that accept neither exceptions nor adaptations. In fact, «in the New Covenant we can find numerous testimonies of followers of Christ that (...) accepted persecutions and death before making the idolatrous gesture of burning incense before the statue of the Emperor» (John Paul II).
In the Roman environment of Emperor Valerian, the deacon «St. Lawrence loved Christ in life, and imitated Christ unto death» ( St. Augustine ). And, once again, we see confirmed that «the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life» (Jn 12:25). Luckily for us, the memory of St. Lawrence will perpetually remain as a signal that to follow Christ is worth offering our life rather than admitting frivolous interpretations of His path.