One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

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The Word of God and the Body of God reveal each other -- the homily worships both.

August 10, 2006

For the Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr, August 10

John 12:24-26
2 Corinthians 9:6-10

Pope John Paul II, among others, pointed out that the twentieth century is the bloodiest century in the history of Christian martyrdom.
We traditionally speak of the first three-hundred years of our Lord as the age of martyrdom.
However, if the twentieth is the greatest century of martyrdom, what might St. Lawrence and the first age of martyrdom have to tell us now that we are in the first decade of a new century and a new millennium of our Lord Jesus Christ?
St. Lawrence the deacon comes after only Saints Peter and Paul as the favorite martyr of the city of Rome.
St. Lawrence was martyred in Rome on August 10 in the year of our Lord 258.
He was a deacon serving directly under Pope Sixtus who was martyred three days before St. Lawrence.
In the year of our Lord 313, fifty-five years after pagan Rome put St. Lawrence to death, Christianity became the state religion of the Roman empire.
Christian tradition has always called the blood of martyrs “the seed of Christians”.
The blood of St. Lawrence and the early Roman martyrs was seed planted in the soil of Rome— seed that then overtook the whole field of Rome and even the chief Roman farmer, the emperor himself.
Today we heard the apostle Paul who was also martyred in Rome.
In his second letter to the Corinthians he tells us:
whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

The one who supplies seed to the sower…
will supply and multiply your seed
and increase the harvest of your righteousness.

Our Lord was also put to death by the hands of Romans.
Today in his Gospel he tells us:
unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat.
but if it dies;
it produces much fruit.

With faith and great hope, let us pray that the present twenty-first century of our Lord will become an age of Christianity in full flower throughout the whole world.
The Church has always embraced the suffering and the blood of martyrs as the seeds of her growth.
That makes no sense in the measure of the practical world.
However, it is the way and truth of Christ himself.
His own body the Church rises in glory out of his own resurrection from suffering and death.
The apostles appointed the first deacons of the Church in order to protect the ministry of the apostles themselves.
The apostles defined their own apostolic ministry as prayer and preaching the word of God.
In the measure of the practical world, prayer, like martyrdom, is not a practical means to growth.
Yet, after the apostles prayed over and laid hands on the first deacons, appointing them to social service in the Church, while the apostles kept to prayer and preaching, the Scripture [Acts 6:7] simply adds that:
the word of God increased and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.

We do well to hope and believe that the prayers, the suffering and the blood of the martyrs of the twentieth century will make for a multiplication of disciples and priests obedient to the faith in the twenty-first century.
The blood of the Christian martyr invokes the blood of Christ and makes his power present.
Here in his Eucharistic Flesh and Blood, God gives himself without condition or limit, in the form of a servant, honoring us and giving eternal life.
In his flesh and blood he serves himself up to us as that which dies to give us life: God feeding and enriching us with his greatness, might and immortality.
For his servants, for sinners, the One Greatest and Almighty has lowered and sacrificed himself.
For us men and for our salvation, he still comes down from heaven.

That God Be Glorified in All


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