Message: When you or I are tempted to say, "God's way is not fair," it's good to remember Saint Lorenzo.
Last Sunday we concluded a seven-part series on overcoming envy by finding your place in God's world. In the final homily I mentioned two steps to overcoming envy, but when I got to the third step I realized it deserves its own homily - in fact, its own series of homilies! When I tell you what the third step is you will realize why.
The third step to overcome envy and find your place in God's world is this: Trust. Trust God. Trust God no matter what. To speak about trust in God I've developed this plan: For five Sundays we have Gospels about the "end times." Jesus gave these Gospels during Holy Week - right after Palm Sunday and right before the Last Supper - so they refer to the great struggle between Jesus and and the powers of darkness. These Gospels show that we have to make a choice: Are we going to place our hopes in this world or are we going to trust God? Jesus himself had to make an act of trust in face to terrible suffering and hideous evil. Jesus asks us, Will you also trust God?
To show what it means to trust God I will not only speak about Jesus' teaching, but also show how five different people lived these teaching in the face great personal suffering. I'm doing this for a very practical reason. When I talk about trusting God, people can say, "Easy for you, Father; you don't know what I am going through." I admit that I have not suffered as much as many others, but no one can say that about the five people in this series.
The person for this Sunday is a bit like the first son that Jesus describes in the Gospel. Initially he seemed be saying, "no," but in the end he did the Father's will. This man was born in Binondo - Manila's china-town - about the year 1600. His dad was Chinese and his mom, Filipina. They named their son, "Lorenzo" or as we say, Lawrence.
Young Lorenzo had a gift that I wish I had - good penmanship! The Dominican priests in Binondo recognized his gift and employed him to keep the parish record books. Lorenzo married a woman named Rosario and they had two sons and one daughter.
In 1636 his peaceful world overturned. He was accused of murdering a Spaniard. Convinced that he could not get a fair trial, the Dominican priests helped him escape. After making provisions for his wife and children, they smuggled him aboard a ship headed for Okinawa.
It could appear he was running away, but it turns out he was jumping from the frying pan into the fire. The Tokugawa shogunate had begun a persecution of Christians. They arrested and imprisoned Lorenzo, along with his companions. After a year they transferred the Christians to Nagasaki where they faced trial by torture. One of the worst tortures involved tying a rope around the prisoner's legs and suspending him upside down above a pit. They left one hand free so the victim could signal his willingness to recant. Lorenzo hung for over a day, slowly dying of blood loss and strangulation. The guards told Lorenzo he could end the torture by renouncing Christ. The bystanders heard him say these words: "I am a Catholic and I wholeheartedly accept death for the Lord. Had I a thousand lives, all these I shall offer to Him." With these words Lorenzo entrusted himself to God.
In the first reading we hear someone say, "The Lord's way is not fair." Sometimes you or I say those words. Those words can express genuine anguish, but they can also come from arrogance: If I were in charge of the universe, I could sure do a better job running things. Really? When you or I are tempted to say, "God's way is not fair," it's good to remember Saint Lorenzo.
Next week I will tell you about another person who, like St. Lorenzo, made a remarkable act of trust in God. He lived in very different time and a very different place. He made his act of trust not so much at the end of his life, but when he was a boy, 14-years-old. He's not well known. I would be surprised if ten of you have heard of him. Still, he gained a little fame because Pope Francis quoted him on his coat of arms. Anyway, as I am sure you will agree, he made a powerful act of of trust in God - and he deserves to be better known. But that's for next week.
For today let's conclude with Collect for the Feast of St. Lawrence:
"Grant us, we pray, Lord God, the same perseverance shown by your Martyrs Saint Lawrence Ruiz and his companions in serving you and their neighbor, since those persecuted for the sake of righteousness are blessed in your Kingdom. Through Christ Our Lord." Amen.
Trust No Matter What Week 1:
Trust No Matter What Week 2:
Trust No Matter What Week 3:
Trust No Matter What Week 4:
Trust No Matter What Week 5:
From Archives (Twenty-Sixth Ordinary Sunday, Year A):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Take the Plunge Bible Study (audio resources)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru