St Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr
2 Corinthians 9:6-10
I have been entrusted with nurturing three roses in our seaside garden, in which my husband (the gardener) does the lion’s share of the work, and I (is that a plant or a weed??) sit back and enjoy. The first, Just Joey, was planted in honour of my mother and my unborn brother, Peter, the same rose she planted for him when I was 10 years old. Just Joey struggled at first, having been planted along the bed from my flourishing (and favourite) Peace rose. While the Peace rose bloomed several times over the year, with seven or eight healthy buds, producing gloriously scented yellow blooms tinged with pink, Just Joey struggled to bear a single bud.
Two years ago, severe Tasmanian winds caused Peace, heavy with foliage, to snap in half. No amount of splintage, taping or prayers could restore it. I was devastated, but we planted an ANZAC rose in its place, deep red, in honour of my recently deceased father. Six months later, Just Joey bloomed. Not one, not ten, but twenty-three buds. As I snapped each dying head off, another tiny bud would appear. That first year, Just Joey bloomed three times – full, rich, apricot. Last year, four, each time with more roses than before.
Bette Midler poeticised, “It’s the soul afraid of dying that never learns to live,” yet unless a seed dies, offers Jesus, it will never produce fruit. The death of one enables the life of another. The offering of self, the dying unto oneself to live for another, is our Christian calling. When we hold on tightly to God’s gifts, to our lives, lavishly given in love, we find we are unable to produce fruit.
Death is not our endpoint. Life and death are entwined, ever living, ever dying unto ourselves, unto each other and unto God… this is the mystery. Love is planted in our hearts. We give our lives in sacrifice as Christ gave his and, after whom, St Lawrence followed. Dying unto ourselves this seed, “with the [Son’s] love, in the spring becomes the rose.”
Angela Marquis works for the Hobart Passionists at St Joseph’s in Tasmania, with WATAC (Women and the Australian Church), and as a primary school chaplain.