One of my favorite movies is Under the Tuscan Sun. In it, Diane Lane’s character Francis endures a divorce and heals herself of her heartbreak by serendipitously buying a house in Italy. During the movie, she asks & prays for many things: a family to love, friends to have, security, and so on. Midway through the movie, her real estate agent and new friend gifts her with a statue of St. Lawrence, stating he is the patron of cooks and that he’ll bring her some people to cook for. The reason for this story leads to the next. Do we know why St. Lawrence is the patron saint of cooks? Horrifically, he was martyred through “BBQ”. Yep. The man was grilled to death.
Aside from the dark humor our church has, it’s important to know why St. Lawrence was martyred. Lawrence was a deacon in Rome in the 250s. Since he was a deacon, he was in charge of all the material goods of the Church and the distribution of alms and charity toward the poor. The prefect in Rome challenged Lawrence telling him that since the Church is rich in gold, silver, and fine wealth, give to Caesar his due. Lawrence asked the prefect to give him several days, as the riches of the Church are so many that it will take time to gather it all. Three days past, legend has it, and Lawrence met with the prefect outside a large hall. Opening the door, Lawrence said to him, “Here is the treasure of the Church.” The prefect was furious. Where he was expecting fine jewels, fabrics, gold & silver, he was met with the poor, lame, blind, orphaned, and widowed. Lawrence was killed because of this act: finding more value in the outcast of society than in gold and wealth.
Jesus, in this parable in Luke, challenges us to the same: gather the fine wealth of the Church and bring them to Him. We can talk about how it’s important to care for the poor, sick, orphaned, disabled, widowed and how good it is of us to do so. We can continue to pat ourselves on the back when we volunteer to do things that provide aid – either through tithing or time. But there is a bigger idea here. What is it that we consider valuable? What do we consider to be priceless? Is anything worth more than gold – what is it? What would you have gather into that hall?