2 Corinthians 9:6-10
There are moments, blessed and fortuitous, when the public experience of the church, its lived reality, and its official and formal worship come together and converge. Such is the situation today as our church remembers Saint Lawrence, deacon and martyr. His name is listed among the saints of Rome in the first Eucharistic prayer. This prayer, often called the Roman canon, was the one and only Eucharistic Prayer that the Roman Catholic community prayed for centuries. It held a privileged place in our public worship, partly due to its antiquity and partly due to the fact that it reflected the situation of the church.
The Church in Rome and in North Africa was a church of martyrs. Imperial powers periodically engaged in persecution of the church and in killing Christians. These martyrs, especial friends of God, became examples of holiness and of heroism. Their sacrificial offering inspired those who remembered them in the great prayer of thanksgiving. Lawrence was one of these, a deacon and martyr. He is included in the Roman prayer offered at the Lord’s table. I have always been personally and profoundly moved by this section of the Eucharistic Prayer that says, “Look with favor on these offerings and accept them as once you accepted the gifts of your servant Abel, the sacrifice of Abraham, our father in faith, and the bread and wine offered by your priest Melchisedech.” Lawrence and his companions stand in continuity with Abel, Abraham, and Melchisedech. The Eucharist is truly a sacrifice of praise offered to God.
The prayer then continues, “Almighty God, we pray that your angel may take this sacrifice to your altar in heaven. Then, as we receive from this altar the sacred body and blood of your Son, let us be filld with every grace and blessing.” How fitting it would be for us to sit and just allow these words to sink into our souls.
The church remembers Lawrence in a time when there have been many martyrs — in all parts of the world and in circumstances where faith and justice and public witness manifest a church dedicated to human and earth rights and public responsibility for justice and charity, compassion and healing today. Lawrence is a symbol of courage for us as we put on Christ in integrity, justice, mercy, and peace-making.
- Father John J. O’Brien was a Passionist priest, writer and scholar.