To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Cor 9:6-10; Jn 12:24-26
The esteem in which the Church holds Lawrence is seen in the fact that today’s celebration ranks as a feast. Lawrence is one of those whose martyrdom made a deep and lasting impression on the early Church. Celebration of his feast day spread rapidly.
He was a Roman deacon under Pope St. Sixtus II. Four days after this pope was put to death, Lawrence and four clerics suffered martyrdom, probably during the persecution of the Emperor Valerian. The church built over his tomb became one of the seven principal churches in Rome and a favourite place for Roman pilgrimages.
After the Pope was arrested, Lawrence knew that he would be too. As soon as he could he gave all the money that he possessed to the poor and even sold some of the Church’s treasures and gave the money he received to the poor. Later, when asked to show the Emperor the treasures of the Church, Lawrence 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 Emperor 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!”
The Gospel text for the feast of St. Lawrence is from the Gospel of John. Jesus introduces teachings about his death with a brief agricultural parable The seed imagery recalls the parables of sowing found in the Synoptic Gospels (Mt 13:3-32; Mk 4:3-20, 26-32; Lk 8:5-15). Jesus uses the imagery here to interpret his own death.
The significance of this parable for understanding Jesus’ death lies in the contrast between remaining solitary and “bearing much fruit”. In John, “fruit” is Jesus’ metaphor for the life of the community of faith. Jesus thus uses the seed parable to show that the salvific power of his death resides in the community that is gathered as a result of it (cf. 10:15-16; 11:51-52).
Jn 12:25 is one of the best-attested sayings of Jesus; in addition to this verse, some form of the saying occurs five times in the synoptic Gospels (Mt 10:39; 16:25; Mt 10:39; Lk 9:24; 17:33). While all of the occurrences share the basic pattern of an antithetical parallelism that highlights contrasting attitudes toward one’s life, there are also significant differences among the sayings. The significant number of variations within the synoptic tradition and between the Synoptic Gospels and John argues against any theory of literary dependence and for multiple attestations of this saying in the oral tradition. It also argues for the authenticity or historicity of the saying. The differences point to the ways each evangelist adapted this Jesus saying to serve his Gospel.
To love one’s life is the opposite of Jesus’ own action; it places one outside of the community shaped by Jesus’ gift of his life (psyche) and leads to the loss of that life To hate one’s life in “this world” is to declare one’s allegiance to Jesus (cf. 15:18-19) and so to receive his gift of eternal life (cf. 3:16; 6:40; 10:28; 17:2).
While the synoptic versions establish a condition for following Jesus (“taking up one’s cross”), the Johannine version contains both condition and promise. Since Jesus’ ultimate service is the gift of his life in love, he calls the disciples to love as he loves and hence to serve as he serves. What it means to be Jesus’ servant will be enacted in the foot washing of 13:1-20.
The prime reason for the choice of the Gospel text is that Lawrence became like the grain of wheat that was unafraid to fall into the ground and die. In doing so, he became like his Lord and master Jesus.