The year 258 AD saw a massive killing campaign unleashed against the Christians by the Roman Emperor Valerian.
Popular lore has it that a young Deacon had been placed in charge of the Church’s riches.
>> These treasures included the Holy Grail which was supposed to be the cup used by Christ at the Last Supper.
Emperor Valerian, who had just killed the Pope had set his eyes also on finishing off this young Deacon.
Having a good knowledge of the Church’s riches, the cruel Emperor commanded the Deacon to hand over all the “treasures of the Church” to him or that he too would suffer a dreadful death.
The deacon requested for a few days to collect together the vast amount of wealth.
Three days later, the Deacon, mustering immense courage, threw open the palace doors to deliver the “treasures”.
His hands were all empty – no silver nor gold nor any other precious ornaments.
>> Instead, flaunting behind him were the poor, the blind and the crippled of the town.
When he reached the throne, the Deacon daringly announced, “These are the true treasures of the Church”!
The Emperor was mightily enraged.
He sentenced the young fellow to a death by torturous grilling!
Literally, the executioners followed the command – barbecuing the Deacon to death on a gridiron.
However, the valour and the dare displayed by the faithful soldier of Christ was so great that, after a few minutes of being roasted, he said to his executioners, “This side is done… Turn me over on the other side!!”
That could be the height of boldness and courage, right?
And what’s more.. call it Divine humour, the Church has named this Deacon as the Patron Saint of comedians, butchers, chefs and roasters!
Classic one, isn’t it?
The name of the Deacon is St Lawrence, whose feast we celebrate today.
His daring life goes on to prove…
… that a passionate love for Christ can overcome any pain and persecution – including death!
… that the worth of being a true disciple is total fidelity to the person of Christ and to His Kingdom, even if it means bearing hardships and difficulties
We are invited, as the Gospel of the day says, “to be the grain of wheat that falls into the earth and dies” ( Jn 12: 24-26)
Our Blessed Lord expounds one of the most basic principles in nature:
>> New life emerges only when there is a sacrifice
>> Transformation in life happens only when a sacrifice is involved.
The vegetables, before being served at table…
… needs to be pulled up from the heart of the earth
… and passed through the torment of fire in being cooked
The meat, that comes with its tasty appeal, at the food table..
… needs to be first submitted to the slaying by the knife
… and passed through the flaming ordeal, in being rendered edible
Sacrifice, therefore, is nature’s way of passage to experience new life!
The Lord takes an appeal to this basic principle in saying that “unless a grain of wheat dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12: 24)
At the time of Jesus, farmers would drop one grain of wheat at a time, in its cultivation
• The soil would be ploughed and shallow trenches dug out to create the bed for the seeds.
• The wheat grains, one at a time, were dropped into the trench and covered with loosened soil
A little sneak into the wheat yielding statistics (roughly – since it varies from place to place, depending on the soil, seed variety and other factors) reveals the point that Jesus explicated about “a grain of wheat which dies, yields much fruit”
If we consider an acre of land…
>> Two bushels of grain would yield around 40 bushels of wheat
>> That translates to, around 150 kg of grain yielding around 3000 kg of wheat!
• Simplifying it, gives an equation (very roughly): 1 kg of grain sown would yield around 20 kg of wheat!
That’s enormous, isn’t it?
This is the power of sacrifice, that Jesus alludes to, with an example from nature.
As Christians, we are challenged to live a life of Sacrifice, in order to yield the harvest of God’s Kingdom.
Greater our sacrifice, greater would be the fruits that are yielded for the glory of God and His Kingdom!
The Gospel passage refers to two ways of making this sacrifice…
1. Dying to the world
“He who hates his love in this world, will keep it for eternal life” (Jn 12: 25)
2. Serving the Lord wholeheartedly by following Him
“If anyone serves me, the Father will honour me” (Jn 12: 26)
Can we personalize these two dimensions of sacrifice….?
• Dying to the worldly values which glorify the self – power, positions and honour- and instead seek to live in humility, self-discipline and selflessness!
• Constantly making efforts to serve the Lord in every aspect of our life – words, deeds, thoughts – and leading a life that brings glory to God and serving His people in every little way possible
• Giving up sins – both personal and social – and constantly rejecting alluring temptations to remain fixated by worldly standards; instead focussing on the transcendental dimensions of life
• Prioritising the Lord and His Kingdom in every aspect of our life and remaining focussed on Him alone – even amidst persecutions or hardships to give up the Gospel Lifestyle
The courageous and bold Deacon, St Lawrence is a powerful model for us to lead a life of Christian Sacrifice.
May our Crucified Lord, who is the greatest embodiment of Sacrifice, fill us with the grace and courage to live a committed Christian life!
God Bless! Live Jesus!