Commentary on the Gospel of
When I was a child, St. Lawrence loomed prominently in my spiritual imagination. Much of this stemmed from my father who would often repeat the martyrdom account of St. Lawrence being roasted on coals, cheerfully telling his torturers, “It is well-done. Turn me over!” The legend’s combination of fidelity, humor, heroism, and the grotesque lodged in a young boy’s brain; it may also explain why the story has been passed down through the centuries.
Years later, I learned that St. Lawrence had his own feast day. A feast day, mind you, not just a memorial. In many ways this feast emerges as a curious interruption. Here we are, in the final days of summer (if you live in the northern hemisphere), praying our way through ordinary time. And then, out of the blue, Lawrence interrupts us. Why is the Church calling us to stop and pay such attention to this little-known deacon and martyr from the 3rd century?
I would argue that the prominence of today’s feast lies in the very concept of “martyr,” literally "witness." Most of us will not be called to be “Martyrs” in the large M way, suffering a violent death in witness to Christ. But all of us are called to be martyrs in a “small m” way, witnessing to God’s ordinary yet transformative work in our daily lives. All of us are called to sow bountifully, loving with abandon. All of us are called to be “cheerful givers.” All of us are called to be fertile soil for God’s sowing. And all of us are called to follow Jesus through diakonia or service, especially, as today’s Psalm reminds us, through gracious lending to those in need. It is to this life of self-sacrificing service that Lawrence stands as a faithful witness. At the end of this day, may we look back with Lawrence and say, “It is well-done.”