Grace to you!
You may have heard about the story of Saint Lawrence, a 3rd century saint who was martyred at the orders of the Roman Emperor Valerian (254 -260AD). Today is his feast day. A few more details about his incredible faith were brought to the limelight through the journals of Saint Ambrose, who wrote on August 10, 1557.
Hundreds of years after Lawrence’s martyrdom, his witness of faith is still relevant. Not only is he the only deacon whose name is included in the Roman Canon (approved list of the saints in the Rites of the Mass), he follows Saints Peter and Paul as one of the patrons of Rome. I would like to share some thoughts about an aspect of his life.
The aspect of his life that fascinates me the most, other than his martyrdom, is his understanding of what the wealth of the Church is and what it entails.
As the chief deacon entrusted with the temporal goods of the Church by Pope Sixtus II, he was summoned before the Roman Prefect. He was compelled, at the threat of death, to bring the treasures of the Church (which the Prefect expected would include gold, silver and other monies) before the emperor.
A huge portion of the Church’s funds in those days went to taking care of the poor and the needy. So, Lawrence’s response was surprisingly priceless. He gathered all the poor who depended on the Church for their sustenance and brought them before the Roman Judge. “These are the wealth of the Church,” he said. It reminds me of Saint [Mother] Teresa of Calcutta.
In Lawrence’s response are some ideas worth spreading. Come to think of it, what is the true wealth of the Church?
Is it beautiful basilicas, cathedrals, churches or offices? These are wonderful.
Is it balanced budget or robust fiscal security? Is it increased collections, tripling envelopes and great retirement packages? As necessary as these may be in paying the bills, they aren’t the Church’s wealth.
Our wealth as Church isn’t money, the love of which is the root of all evils. It isn’t our savings, safe net or architectural masterpieces.
Our wealth is the poor, the broken, the needy, the downtrodden, the depressed, the sick and the spiritually starving who find hope and life through us. They are those whose hope can be restored if we, as the Church, the Body of Christ, provide for them.
The wealth of the Church is wounded soldiers or physicians, healed so as to heal others, like Our Lord Jesus Christ who bears the mark of the sword and by whose wounds we are healed (Is 53:5; 1 Pt 2;24). Remember, you and I are in some ways poor or wounded.
Our wealth is truly the poor and the wounded. Isn’t it why Pope Francis stated that the Church “is the field hospital after battle?” It is in this light that the mission of the Lord is to be appreciated, “I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance” (John 10:10).
If we as believers are left with only two options between building infrastructure and serving the poor—a highly improbable case scenario—may it not be that we focus on infrastructure to the detriment of the poor in our midst.
Better to invest in building lives and souls for God than simply building bricks and staircases while ignoring the poor in our midst.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Saint Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr. 10 August 2017]
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.