August 10, 2016 (St Lawrence, Deacon & Martyr)
Who sows sparingly…
Dear friends in Christ, today we celebrate St Lawrence, one of the seven deacons of the Church of Rome who was executed on the 10th of August 258—four days after the martyrdom of Pope Sixtus II and his companions. Having been promised by the Pope that he will follow in three days, Lawrence gave the money in his custody to the poor and even sold the vessels in his charge, to have more to give. When the emperor summoned him and requested for the treasure of the Church, he presented the poor and the sick people, under his care, as the Church’s treasure. In anger, the emperor condemned Lawrence to a slow, cruel death. He was roasted slowly alive. A Basilica was built over his tomb fifty years after his death by Emperor Constantine. His name appears in the Canon of the Mass. We pray through his intercession that we may have the courage to face the difficulties that comes with obeying God.
Our first reading today (2Corinthians 9:6-10) compares our investment in faith matters, with what farmers do on a regular basis. “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” For anyone who is familiar with farming, there shouldn't be much difficulty knowing that a farmer who cultivates only a plot of land can reap only what one plot can produce. Our elders even say, “The one who sows a hundred mounds and claims to have sown two hundred, will at harvest time, reap a hundred mounds of yam and a hundred mounds of lies.” You can only expect so much from the effort you put in because ‘grace builds on nature.’ Paul therefore encourages individual responsibility in the practice of the faith and not just being one person in the crowd. “Each one must do as he has made up his mind not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Often, this quote is used for fund raising but it has a wider application. Paul believes that we all have the good conscience in the first place, to make the right decision about how we want to serve God and that once that decision is taken, we do not fret nor peep into other people or base our decision on theirs. Our giving therefore must be according to our capacity and we must do so with joy, not grudgingly. The martyrs are great models in this, they gave their lives freely in defence of their faith. Lawrence is such a great example.
The Gospel passage (John 12:24-26) caps it, with Jesus instructing his disciples, “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if anyone serves me, the Father will honour him.” We may not all have to suffer martyrdom like Lawrence, but can we die to the little faults of everyday, so that we might be alive with Christ. Following Jesus, requires that we give joyfully and not grudgingly; it requires that we live in the hope of eternal life by not setting our minds completely on things that are passing; It requires that we be faithful in little things.
Let us pray: Lord, give us a generous heart that we might give without stint in the hope of eternal life. Amen. May the Almighty God bless you, the Father and the son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.