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God loves a cheerful giver

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God loves a cheerful giver

On this day in AD 258, Laurence the Deacon gave his life in martyrdom.  As is usual among the early martyrs, there is not too much that we know for certain about his life and death but there are two stories that are too good for even the most stringent of historians to resist telling.

The first is the reason he incurred the wrath of the Roman Prefect.  The greedy prefect was convinced that the church had many precious treasures and charged Laurence with the task of collecting them all and bringing them to him.  Laurence agreed and asked for three days to gather the riches together.  Pope Sixtus, who had just been martyred, had predicted Laurence’s martyrdom three days after his own, so Laurence spent those three days joyfully giving away all the money he had to the poor.  He then returned to the Prefect on the third day with a large number of poor people, lame and blind too, declaring that they were the treasures of the Church.  The Prefect suffered a huge sense-of-humour failure and sentenced Laurence to death.

And so Laurence met his death; he was burnt slowly on a gridiron.   Here’s the second story we can’t resist about St Laurence: while he was burning, he reputedly called out, ‘Turn me over – I’m done on this side!’

I must admit I smiled when I saw 2 Corinthians 9:6-10 for Mass today, as it contains the verse,

‘Each one should give what he has decided in his own mind, not grudgingly or because he is made to, for God loves a cheerful giver’. 

St Laurence certainly gave cheerfully!   But how did he manage to be so joyfully generous in the face of his own impending death?  He could have run away or given all the money to the Prefect, but no: he surrendered his life completely to God and so after that, he lived in complete freedom, with no reason to calculate his own needs or keep anything back for himself.  We can do that too: if we first give ourselves completely to God, we are then free to give of ourselves for our neighbours’ good – cheerfully and without counting the cost.
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St Laurence, deacon and Martyr, pray for us, that we may become evermore cheerful givers.
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