I’m going to have to stop quoting Sam Portaro’s “Brightest and Best.”  But I can’t resist quoting from the last two days readings.  Yesterday was the day we commemorate Lawrence, a deacon martyred in Rome in 258 CE.  The emperor Valerian had him arrested and held for intensive questioning.  He wanted to plunder the riches of the church.

Laurence assembled the sick and poor among whom he had spent the church’s funds and presented them to the emperor saying, “These are the treasures of the church.”  For his impertinence he was roasted alive on a gridiron (and became the patron saint of cooks!).

Portaro says, “… [a Christian’s] riches are measured in human lives.  The bounty of the Christian table is measured in grain broadcast far and wide, in life freely given and abundantly returned.  It is not our nature, however, to scatter so generously.  We grow more constrained every day, more eager to gather in than to give away.  We worry that our resources are diminishing … We may not know the threat of the gridiron, but we do know martyrdom.  For the word ‘martyr’ does not mean death; the word ‘martyr’ means ‘witness.’  In our case, as Christians, martyrdom is evidenced in the whole of our lives, in the giving of self in fullness that holds back nothing.  As we live, and when  we leave, our treasure and the church’s will not b e measured by how much we take away, but by how much we have spent, our legacy measured in the lives of others.”

And today we commemorate Clair of Assisi, who died in 1253 CE.  On her deathbed, she blessed those around her saying:

“Go forth in peace,

for you have followed the good road.

Go forth without fear,

for he that created you has sanctified you,

has always protected you,

and loves you as a mother.”

Then, as her final words, she added:

“Blessed be God, for having created me.”

Portaro says, “Without the evidence of her life, and the generosity of her blessing upon others, the final utterance would sound self-centered and arrogant. Within that context, however, the words take on a luminous and profound beauty.  … For Clare, the service of others was a self-serving.  Her commitment to the gospel, to the disciplines of godly service, restored her to the fullness of life she rightly considered lost in her former life of wealth and privilege.  … In serving others, Clare served herself to a full life.  She found herself at death, at the end of a life filled with such meaning and purpose it gave rise to thanksgiving.  She had given it all away to serve the same endless round of mortality’s demands – tending to the poor who would always be poor, caring for the sick who would never be well …   At the end, when she might have been bitter and resentful, when she might have lamented her leaving or fretted about who would carry on after her, she gave the most profound benediction any believer can utter:  ‘Blessed be God, for having created me.’”