"Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit."
Today is the Feast of St. Lawrence. St. Lawrence lived, and died, in the mid 3rd century. He was a deacon of the church in Rome. He was faithful to the end and willingly gave his life as a martyr. He was literally slow roasted to death. But to his last breath he continued to pray and give a faithful witness. Some of those who watched his execution were converted and provided a proper burial for him.
The Gospel for today's feast reminds us of the fruit that is born through martyrdom. In the text, our Lord is referring to Himself as the grain of wheat that must die in order to bear fruit. But since we have been called to follow in His steps, we may apply the statement equally to martyrdom of any believer.
I have heard that God gives special grace in the hour of martyrdom so that we may bear it heroically as so many have done in the past, and continue to do today. I'm sure there's some truth to that. But it's also true that many who were called to a martyr's crown denied the Lord and forfeited their true treasure. I believe this shows that we can only truly lay down our lives if we have already done so in our hearts.
As disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are called to lay down our lives. We are instructed to die daily; to carry our cross. This is a very real death. It means the abandoning of everything. We learn this death moment by moment in the tedious affairs of life. We must endure suffering, unfair treatment, grief, and even tragedy. In all of these things we have the choice to become angry and bitter, or we can lay aside our "rights" to these things and choose humility and patience. As we do, we are dying to ourselves. In these "little" deaths we are being prepared for the grace of martyrdom should we be called upon to experience it.
But let's return to the little deaths. Because these are mini martrydoms if done with a pure heart for the glory of God. These, too, are fruitful. As long as we live our lives for ourselves we are like the grain of wheat that stands alone. But when we choose to die, we offer God an opportunity to produce much fruit by us. Then there are opportunities to reach out to lost and hurting souls around us. Then there will be those moved by our example of patience. Then there will be those benefited by our prayers. The list goes on and on. The possibilites are truly endless. Our great God who is eternal in His wisdom and might can do more than we could ever imagine through such things.
Today is Monday, and most of us dread Mondays. But what opportunities lie before us to lay down our lives that God may use it to produce much fruit? We will not likely see the fruit right away, or in some cases, we will not see it at all until we are in glory. Nevertheless, God is working through us if we will humbly and patiently lay down our lives for our Lord and His people.
Today is the day of martyrdom. We are called to die; perhaps not in body, but certainly in spirit. Be faithful true Christian, for an unspeakable crown of glory awaits those who triumph in death.