We have all heard the expression, God loves a cheerful giver. Like so many sayings we hear today, this one comes from the Bible; in fact, it is in today's first reading.
"Each one should give as you have decided in your heart to give. You should not be sad when you give, and you should not give because you feel forced to give. God loves the person who gives happily." 2 Corinthians 9:7
Today is the feast day of St. Lawrence, the arch-deacon of the Diocese of Rome in the year of Our Lord 258. One of Lawrence's responsibilities as deacon was to proclaim the Word of God, look after the material goods of the Church, and to care for the poor.
Christianity was an illegal religion in Rome at that time. Pope Sixtus II was put under civil arrest, and martyred. Lawrence knew the Empire would come after him next. When the civil authorities of Rome demanded that Lawrence produce the treasure of the Church, he told them he would do so, but said he needed a couple of days to get it together. He sought out the poor, widows and orphans, the blind and the lame, and the lepers. He gathered the money he had, and even sold the sacred vessels of the Church, and he disbursed it all to them.
When the prefect came for the Church's money, Lawrence simply pointed to the crowd and said, "Here is the treasure of the Church." The prefect did not understand what Lawrence was saying. Neither did he understand how Lawrence spent his life in the service of these poor people. On August 10th, four days after the death of the pope, Lawrence was martyred.
This is a feast of generosity and joy and abundance. What Saint Lawrence did was reflect the generosity and joy and abundance of God. He understood that the wealth of the Church was in the way our lives touch the lives of others. We see God's generosity to us in the Gospel today; that unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth, it remains a grain, but if it dies it produces much abundant fruit. We are called to produce abundant fruit, good works for the kingdom of God.
As we reflect on the feast day of St. Lawrence, let us ask the Lord to give us the courage and strength to joyfully and abundantly proclaim the goodness of God. Let us remember that his Church is not about material things or money, rather it is about how our lives are connected to the lives of others; about serving one another, particularly the poor.
Note: I was inspired for today's ZIA by Helen Williams, where I learned to tangle the wheat.