The Readings for the Feat of St Lawrence, Deacon & Martyr
19th Wednesday, Tempus per Annum (C2)
Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.John 12:26
THE DEACON St Lawrence was the patron saint of the Orthodox monastery where I tested my vocation as a monk. I don’t have one. But it was in conversation with one of the Oblates of that monastery that I learned something important. Sitting on the porch one evening, listening to me give voice to my complaint and struggle, the oblate was supportive. Only when there were guests around to care for did I feel like I was doing my “job” as a monastic. Apart from one or two moments during the year, there were only guests for two weeks during the summer. The rest of the time I felt kind of useless. “Brother,” said the Oblate. “You need to be a friar. The only problem is there are no friars in the Orthodox Church.”
By friar he meant someone who was living out a vocation that was both contemplative and active: present in the world, but in a contemplative way. Even before friars did this, holding in tension the cares of this world with the things of eternity, it was the Deacons of the Church that did this. St Lawrence, holding the wealth of the Roman Church in trust for the poor of Rome is a perfect example.
Lawrence was arrested by the Roman Authorities convinced that he had great wealth. And he agreed that the Church had this wealth and that he (Lawrence) had access to it. When it was demanded of him he gave it over freely: the poor of the Church. The treasure of the Church is the people. Very often even the people fail to recognize this.
It’s not enough to engage in good works – for we must do them sacramentally. Further, for some of us, it’s never enough just to contemplate the beauty of the Lord unless we’re doing so in the active service of others. Jesus says we must serve and follow. Lawerence did both as a deacon is called to do. Friars, as well, do both.
Serving without faith is not enough: for no one is saved by works. But yet, faith without works is dead. If you’re following Jesus you’re serving.
God did not create money in his image. No work of art will ever enter the Kingdom of God. No Church building will be found in heaven. There is no Temple in the New Jerusalem: for the Lord God and the Lamb are, themselves, the Temple (Revelation 21:22).
Man is the image of God. In the Body of Messiah, man is the Temple here. Lawrence knew that the riches of the Church are the poor. When you see man rejected in the world, when you see humanity destroyed by the sins of life in this world, your heart should break. When drugs destroy the brain and sex addles the passions, when anger distorts the family, when greed corrupts the heart of a worker, we should be broken to see the Dwelling Place of God so desecrated.
Yet, by the same token, the Church is not a social services agency. It is not the Church’s place to fix the world. In fact, if the world could be fixed it wouldn’t need the Church: there are many agencies who would do it much better if it could be done. But every political movement has realized, eventually, that the world is broken. A friar, a deacon, any Christian does not move through the world trying to fix it, but rather to heal the human icons of God who struggle through this sinful world, to teach them to bear up manfully the cross they have and to live in love with their neighbors. The world is fixed from the inside.