"Joy increases as you give it, and diminishes as you try to keep it yourself. In giving it, you will accumulate a deposit of joy greater than you ever believed possible."
Feast of St Lawrence – Deacon and Martyr
(Scripture Text: 2 Cor 9:6-10)
Brothers and sisters:
Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,
and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion,
for God loves a cheerful giver.
Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you,
so that in all things, always having all you need,
you may have an abundance for every good work.
As it is written:
He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.
The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food
will supply and multiply your seed
and increase the harvest of your righteousness.
Openly following Jesus in third-century Rome was a risky business. Emperor Valerian II was killing believers right and left. Nonetheless, Lawrence, a deacon and trusted friend of Pope Sixtus II, continued his pastoral work with little concern for his safety.
Still, the time came when the prefect of Rome ordered Lawrence to collect all the church’s treasures and hand them over. But instead of gathering the church’s wealth together, Lawrence distributed it to the sick and needy. When the day came, he then presented these poor people to the prefect, saying: “Here is the treasure of the church.”
This bold move sealed Lawrence’s death sentence, but it didn’t take away his joy. The story goes that even as Lawrence was being burned alive on a gridiron, he said: “Turn me over, I’m done on this side.” So just how did Lawrence face his death with so much courage and even good humor?
Today’s reading above gives us a clue: God made his grace “abundant” for Lawrence, and that grace enabled him to give of himself in such a heroic way. Probably long before this persecution began, Lawrence had begun to rely on this grace and let it shape his character. How else could he have the strength to stand up to the prefect so peacefully?
Most of us aren’t living with daily, violent persecution, but we do face challenging situations every day. We can dedicate our day to serving or spend it expecting to be served. We can choose to forgive or to lash out. We can turn to Jesus or try to make a go of it with our own resources. Whatever it is, it all starts with receiving the Lord’s grace in our hearts.
If we can get in that habit with the small things of life, we will be so much better prepared when the big challenges come our way!