St. LAWRENCE, Deacon, Martyr. Feast.
Gospel, Commentary, Divine office 2nd reading, and prayer.
- GOSPEL: Jn 12:24–26
- GOSPEL COMMENTARY (Commentary to the Gospel of St. John, Navarre Bible).
- DIVINE OFFICE SECOND READING: A sermon preached by St Augustine on the feast day of St Laurence. He administered the sacred chalice of Christ’s blood
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.”
vv. 24-25 There is an apparent paradox here between Christ’s humiliation and his glorification. Thus, “it was appropriate that the loftiness of his glorification should be preceded by the lowliness of his passion” (St Augustine, In Ioann. Evang., 1, 8).
- This is the same idea as we find in St Paul, when he says that Christ humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross, and that therefore God the Father exalted him above all created things (cf. Phil 2:8-9). This is a lesson and an encouragement to the Christian, who should see every type of suffering and contradiction as a sharing in Christ’s Cross, which redeems us and exalts us. To be supernaturally effective, a person has to die to himself, forgetting his comfort and shedding his selfishness. “If the grain of wheat does not die, it remains unfruitful. Don’t you want to be a grain of wheat, to die through mortification, and to yield a rich harvest? May Jesus bless your wheat-field!” (St. Josemaria, The Way, 199).
v. 26 Our Lord has spoken about his sacrifice being a condition of his entering his glory. And what holds good for the Master applies also to his disciples (cf. Mt 10:24; Lk 6:40). Jesus wants each of us to be of service to him. It is a mystery of God’s plans that he — who is all, who has all and who needs nothing and nobody — should choose to need our help to ensure that his teaching and the salvation wrought by him reaches all men.
‘‘To follow Christ: that is the secret. We must accompany him so closely that we come to live with him, like the first Twelve did; so closely, that we become identified with him. Soon we will be able to say, provided we have not put obstacles in the way of grace, that we have put on, have clothed ourselves with our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Rom 13:14)….
“I have distinguished as it were four stages in our effort to identify ourselves with Christ — seeking him, finding him, getting to know him, loving him. It may seem clear to you that you are only at the first stage. Seek him then, hungrily; seek him within yourselves with all your strength. If you act with determination, I am ready to guarantee that you have already found him, and have begun to get to know him and to love him, and to hold your conversation in heaven (cf. Phil 3:20)” (St. Josemaria, Friends of God, 299-300).
3. DIVINE OFFICE SECOND READING: A sermon preached by St Augustine on the feast day of St Laurence. He administered the sacred chalice of Christ’s blood
The Roman Church commends this day to us as the blessed Laurence’s day of triumph, on which he trod down the world as it roared and raged against him; spurned it as it coaxed and wheedled him; and in each case, conquered the devil as he persecuted him. For in that Church, you see, as you have regularly been told, he performed the office of deacon; it was there that he administered the sacred chalice of Christ’s blood; there that he shed his own blood for the name of Christ. The blessed apostle John clearly explained the mystery of the Lord’s supper when he said Just as Christ laid down his life for us, so we too ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. St Laurence understood this, my brethren, and he did it; and he undoubtedly prepared things similar to what he received at that table. He loved Christ in his life, he imitated him in his death.
And we too, brethren, if we truly love him, let us imitate him. After all, we shall not be able to give a better proof of love than by imitating his example; for Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, so that we might follow in his footsteps. In this sentence the apostle Peter appears to have seen that Christ suffered only for those who follow in his footsteps, and that Christ’s passion profits none but those who follow in his footsteps. The holy martyrs followed him, to the shedding of their blood, to the similarity of their sufferings. The martyrs followed, but they were not the only ones. It is not the case, I mean to say, that after they crossed, the bridge was cut; or that after they had drunk, the fountain dried up.
The garden of the Lord, brethren, includes – yes, it truly includes – includes not only the roses of martyrs but also the lilies of virgins, and the ivy of married people, and the violets of widows. There is absolutely no kind of human beings, my dearly beloved, who need to despair of their vocation; Christ suffered for all. It was very truly written about him: who wishes all men to be saved, and to come to the acknowledgement of the truth.
So let us understand how Christians ought to follow Christ, short of the shedding of blood, short of the danger of suffering death. The Apostle says, speaking of the Lord Christ, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not think it robbery to be equal to God. What incomparable greatness! But he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, and being made in the likeness of men, and found in condition as a man. What unequalled humility!
Christ humbled himself: you have something, Christian, to latch on to. Christ became obedient. Why do you behave proudly? After running the course of these humiliations and laying death low, Christ ascended into heaven: let us follow him there. Let us listen to the Apostle telling us, If you have risen with Christ, savour the things that are above us, seated at God’s right hand.
℟. Blessed Laurence cried out: I worship my God and serve him alone,* and I am not afraid of torture.
℣. My God is the rock where I take refuge,* and I am not afraid of torture.
“O God, giver of that ardor of love for you, by which Saint Lawrence was outstandingly faithful in service and glorious in martyrdom, grant that we may love what he loved and put into practice what he taught.
(Opening prayer, Mass proper).”