Eighteen centuries ago, St Lawrence was the deacon in Rome responsible for the church’s treasury. When a hostile Emperor sought to confiscate the church’s assets, Lawrence distributed everything to the poor. When an official demanded to see the church’s wealth, Lawrence gathered the poor before him and said “Behold, here is the Church’s treasure.” For that, he was cruelly executed.
Lawrence’s witness, however, asks us the question: How do we see the poor? Do we see them as the church’s treasure? Or do we seem them otherwise?
For instance, do we look down on them as inferior, lower class, a public nuisance, or a tax drain?
Perhaps we think they’ve gotten what they deserve. Polls reveal that the prevailing view in America is that “people are poor because of a character flaw like laziness, promiscuity, addiction, or moral failing.”
It could be that we don’t see the poor at all. Either because we intentionally ignore them or, because of where we live and work, they’re “out of sight and out of mind.”
Or maybe, because of our faith, we idealize the poor in some pious, romantic, unrealistic sort of way.
St. Lawrence, deacon and martyr, challenges us to see the poor as brothers and sisters in the human family, to be treated, not with contempt or even pity, but with compassion, respect, generosity, and humility. As befits people with God-given dignity. As befits the treasure of the Church.