Walking in the Footsteps: With joy unto death

Gathering together the treasures of the Church

Today’s Station Church, San Lorenzo in Panisperna, marks the spot of one of the most famous martyrdom’s in Christian history.  Lawrence, one of the deacons in the Roman church, was arrested along with Pope Callixtus in August of the year 258, when Christianity was still illegal.  Soldiers demanded that Lawrence hand over the treasures of the church, and in response the witty deacon gathered not gold and silver but the poor whom the Church served.  Angered, the soldiers imprisoned Lawrence, who with his palpable Christian character soon managed to convert even the jailor.  The only option remaining for the soldiers was execution, so they tied Lawrence to a grill and lit a fire underneath.  Eventually, Lawrence would die as a witness to his faith in Christ, but not before getting in the last word: halfway through the ordeal, the saint mocked, “You can turn me over now… I’m done on this side!”

 Testimony to Hope

How do martyrs suffer for their belief in Christ in such a joyful and free way?  The answer boils down to the strength of the Christian’s faith, and the hope that results from such faith.  A Christian who has faith is one who believes that God has spoken through Jesus, and therefore believes Jesus’ words are true.  A Christian who has hope goes a step beyond, being able not only to believe Jesus’ words are true, but to trust God as delivering on all the promises Jesus has made.  The result of such faith and hope is thus an abiding joy, because such a believer sees behind every circumstance the loving providence of God.  The Father, revealed by Jesus, can bring good out of any situation, and someone who believes this is true and trusts the Father to act, cannot help but see life through the lens of joy.  Hence the wit of today’s saint, and the insightful comment of Pope Benedict, then Cardinal Ratzinger: “deep joy of the heart [is] the true prerequisite for a sense of humor, and thus humor is, in a certain sense, the measure of faith.” (p. 80, Principles of Catholic Theology, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987.)

Seek, knock, ask

Today’s Gospel, Matthew 7:7-12, invites us to practice the gifts of faith and hope.  “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.  Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asked for a loaf of bread or a snake when he asked for a fish?  If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.”  Here we see the trust of Jesus in the Father, and Jesus’ invitation for us to live out of such a trust.  At Baptism, we were given the gifts of faith and hope, but today Jesus invites to act on these gifts.  Do we?  If not, reading the Scriptures daily can be a good remedy, because it will open our eyes to the God we profess and lead us to trust him in every circumstance.  Only then can we become the joyful saints we’re all called to be, and, hopefully, with a little bit of humor too.

Written by: Timothy Daniel

Photos by: Fr. Justin Huber