On this the feast of St. Lawrence, I would like to preach on the theme of generosity - being generous - being a giving person.
Down through the years generosity is the one criterion I hope to find in another - especially a priest. Is this person generous?
If I am stuck, if I need a job done, who is the first person that I would think of to ask for help from?
I also hope people are not hesitant to call on me.
So if people think of you as someone who is an easy touch for time and work, I think that’s a great compliment.
St. Lawrence was a deacon in the early church. He was one of the 7 deacons serving the church in Rome. After Peter and Paul, he is the patron saint of the city of Rome.
Along with Pope Sixtus II and a few other deacons, he was arrested around 258 and killed. They killed Sixtus and the others first, then Lawrence. The story is that they tortured Lawrence, so as to get the money they figured he had.
What he used to do as deacon was to collect money and goods for the poor and then distribute it. Evidently, he was a good collector and a good giver and distributer. I picture him like Father George Wichland, who was great in collecting and distributing money and food to the poor of Baltimore.
When those who wanted his money asked him, “Where is your treasure?” he pointed to the poor.
After Lawrence was killed, a mob of poor people went to the prefect of Rome and asked for their treasure: Lawrence.
His tomb is one of the 7 principal churches of Rome.
The legend is that he was burned to death on a gridiron. I’ve seen pictures of the gridiron. It’s like a barbecue grill.
When I was in Rome I went to his shrine, where he is buried, and there is a marble grill there, with holes in it, so the blood can drip through into the fire.
One story has it that he was killed by the sword. The tradition that people love is that he was burned to death and with humor said, “I’m done on this side, turn me over.”
The Latin is, “Assum est, versa, et manduca.”
I went to Rome for 5 weeks in 1984 - in hopes of seeing Scala and the Redemptorist holy places. As I was looking thru my journal from that trip this morning, to look up stuff about the shrine of St. Lawrence for this homily, I noticed the names of John Ruef, Tom Forest, and Terry Kennedy. The three of them were Redemptorists stationed in our house in Rome. They were very busy people. Tom Forest was with the international headquarters of the charismatic movement. John Ruef was consultor general at the time. And Terry Kennedy was a professor at the Alfonsiana.
Well, preaching on generosity, all 3 were very generous with their time to me. John Ruef gave me almost 3 out of my 5 weeks in Italy. He took me on buses, trains, taxis, to all kinds of places that I would never get to. He was a great tour guide. Terry Kennedy gave up a bunch of his time to take us the shrine of St. Lawrence as well as other places in Rome that I’m sure he saw a hundred times while taking visitors to Rome to good spots. So too Tom Forest.
That’s generosity. That’s giving. We might not have money. We might not have silver and gold, but what we can give so often, in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, is our time.
And I believe that is the theme of today’s readings, chosen especially to fit this the feast of St. Lawrence.
In the first reading, Paul is trying to collect money. He tells the people of Corinth, “He who sows sparingly, will reap sparingly and he who sows bountifully will reap bountifully. Everyone must give according to what he has inwardly decided; not sadly, not grudgingly, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Today’s gospel ends with the great words, “Anyone who serves me, the Father will honor.” Well, Lawrence has been honored since the 3rd century. Certainly, he served the body of Christ.
Hopefully, like Christ, like Lawrence, we will be generous servants - saying to all: "Take and eat. This is my body. This is my time - given to you."
And then add, “I’m not done yet.”