Bearing Fruit by Dying to Self

August 10, 2017 – Feast of Saint Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr

Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am there also will my servant be, says the Lord. Alleluia!

 Mark J. Poletunow, Malvern President (mpoletunow@malvernretreat.com)

 Click for: Readings for the day (From the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops)

 A reading from the holy Gospel according to John (12:24-26)

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
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.

Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.

Whoever serves me must follow me,
and where I am, there also will my servant be.
The Father will honor whoever serves me.”

 

Reflect: 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. This gospel passage takes on significance in the context of today’s feast commemorating the faithfulness and martyrdom of Saint Lawrence. We know that Jesus calls us to follow after him; however, Lawrence is an example of how we are called to forget ourselves for the sake of others. We can never take the place of Jesus, our Savior, and the power of his suffering, death and resurrection. Nonetheless, Jesus prepares us as his disciples to die to self. For some, this means a gradual death on a daily basis to our ego and self-centeredness. We are called to focus on the needs of others for the sake of the Kingdom of God. As one of the seven deacons of the Roman church, Lawrence had to be attentive to the poor and marginalized; a role that he willingly and lovingly accepted. At a time, however, when the Pope (Sixtus II) was martyred together with other servants to the church, Lawrence stepped up to protect the poor. That action infuriated the emperor who had Lawrence burned at the stake. None of us know exactly how we may be asked to follow Jesus throughout our lifetime. We do know, however, that as his followers we will be challenged, in one way or another, to witness to our faith. As we face an increasingly secular society that marginalizes Christianity and faithfulness to the One True God, we can be sure that there will be many moments when we will be challenged to make choices about whether we die to self for the sake of Kingdom of God or not. May God give us the courage and fortitude to be faithful to the end.

Questions: How do I experience being called to die to myself, my ideas, and my status in the eyes of others for the sake of the Kingdom of God? In what ways do I resist the call to focus on others and their needs? How might God be challenging me to step up to witness to his word and the presence of his Kingdom in the world today?

Pray: Loving God, everything I am and have comes from you.  Help me to trust that in being faithful to you, in serving others for the sake of your Kingdom, my life will bear much fruit and be united with you forever in heaven. I pray this in the powerful and perfect name of Jesus. Amen.

Saint Lawrence: Pray for us!

Lawrence was one of the Roman church’s seven deacons who were personally responsible for the temporal welfare of the city’s poor. When the Roman clergy was rooted out and killed under the Emperor Valerian in the year 258, Lawrence saw his beloved Pope Sixtus II hauled off to martyrdom. Tradition says that Lawrence at once liquidated the Church’s possessions and dispersed the money to the poor. When the prefect of Rome heard of this, he demanded that Lawrence turn over the money. Three days later, Lawrence brought him the “Church’s treasure”: the destitute, the orphans, the blind, and the lame. For this action, the emperor ordered that Lawrence be roasted to death on a gridiron. After Saints Peter and Paul, Lawrence is venerated as patron of Rome. He is mentioned in the Roman canon of the Mass.

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