The Poor Are Our Riches
Feast of Saint Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr, August 10, 2016
The Entrance Antiphon gives us the key both to the life of Lawrence and to the readings: “Today let us honor Saint Lawrence, who spent himself for the poor of the Church.” The Responsorial (Psalm 112) echoes it: “Happy the merciful who give to those in need.” Lawrence was martyred because when told to hand over the presumed riches of the Church to the government he assembled the poor of Rome, pointed to them and said, “Here are the treasure of the Church.” The Roman officials did not take kindly to this. They burned him to death on a gridiron.
2Corinthians 9:6-10 pinpoints the principle that matches the spirit of Jesus, whose purpose in coming to earth was that human beings might “have life, and have it to the full.” Jesus just doesn’t know how to give in half measures. Neither should we.
Paul is making arrangements for the “bountiful gift” Corinth had promised to the needy church in Jerusalem. “Now it is not necessary for me to write you about the ministry to the saints,” he writes. But, he says, “The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”
We celebrate this spirit in Jesus at every Mass. There are many reasons for participating in Mass, and many benefits we draw from it. We go to Mass to assemble with others for mutual support and “communion in the Holy Spirit”; to praise and thank God for “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” so that we might appreciate it; to profit from the readings as disciples, “students” of the mind and heart of God; to reaffirm our Baptism and our commitment to the Church’s ministry, presenting ourselves with the bread and wine to be continuously transformed “for the good of all his holy Church”; to be nourished by Holy Communion and strengthened to keep working for the reign of God on earth as stewards of his kingship. But we may lose focus and be distracted from the main reason and principal benefit we get from going to Mass, the one that overrides all others, which is simply — as “priests in the Priest” and “victims in the Victim” — to offer Jesus and ourselves with him to God and to every member of the human race: our “flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:51). When Jesus said, “This is my body, given up for you,” that was the most total self-donation and passionate act of love ever made on earth. We go to Mass to hear him say it to us, and to say it with him and in him to every other person with whom we share the earth.
In John 12:24-26 Jesus says, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” At Baptism we “died in Christ’ and “rose in Christ” to live solely as his body on earth. At Mass we “present our bodies” again as a “living sacrifice.” Wherever our live bodies are, we are “sacrificed” to giving life to others through the physical expression of our faith, of our hope and of God’s healing, life-enhancing love in us. “Happy the merciful who give to those in need.”
Initiative: Give God’s life: Be inspired by the example of Lawrence to see the poor as our treasure.