Very truly, I tell you, 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. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)
In the early Church, deacons conducted the charitable outreach of the community towards those who were hungry and homeless, outcast and poor. The deacon Lawrence (225-258 AD) was known throughout pagan Rome for his fearless commitment to the poor, even in the face of rebuke from Roman authorities. Legend has it that a Roman prefect demanded that Lawrence turn over the riches of the Church. St. Ambrose is the earliest source for the tale that Lawrence asked for three days to gather together the wealth. Lawrence worked swiftly to distribute as much Church property to the poor as possible, so as to prevent its being seized by the prefect. On the third day, at the head of a small delegation, he presented himself to the prefect, and when ordered to give up the treasures of the Church, he presented the poor, the crippled, the blind and the suffering, saying that these were the true treasures of the Church. One account records him declaring to the prefect, “The Church is truly rich, far richer than your emperor.”
This act of defiance led directly to his painful martyrdom on a heated gridiron. Legend has it that Lawrence joked with his executioners, inviting them to turn him over since “I am done on this side.” For this Lawrence became known as a “cheerful giver” in service of Our Lord and His poor. These tales about the attitudes of St. Lawrence lead us on his feast day to ponder the quality of our own outreach to the poor and our service of those who are vulnerable: Am I great-hearted in my care for those in need – do I take time to know their names and learn about their situations? In what ways am I willing to lay my life on the line in situations that demand a generous heart and a cheerful, compassionate spirit?
—The Jesuit Prayer Team
Lord, we hear of so many occasions where leaders sell out to protect their employment, reputation, or future promotions. While we are critical of these acts of selfishness and cowardice, we need to be so careful that we too don’t surrender our opinions just to appease those with more power or those who can influence the decision makers. Only if we daily commit our lives to you will we have the “guts” to live with integrity in the tough moments. We ask, Lord, that we draw our strength from you so we can stand for the truth in spite of the negative consequences we may endure. Raise our awareness of such circumstances and give us good friends who will stand by us and inspire us to speak up and to conquer any fears that will minimize our voice and reduce us to “Yes-Men.”
—The Jesuit Prayer Team