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Thinking Constantly of One’s Self

Homily for the Feast of St. Lawrence

Thinking Constantly of One’s Self

The Asian philosopher Wu-Hsin is quoted as saying: “The central problem is not that you think too highly of yourself.  Nor is it that you think too lowly of yourself.  Instead, it is that you think constantly of yourself.” In one simple expression, this man articulates a problem that I fear we all face every day; namely, management of the ego. It probably goes without saying, but it needs to be stated unequivocally: the Gospel clearly moves us away from ourselves and our needs.

Last night as I prepared the homily for today, I was struck by the three consecutive statements that St. John places in the mouth of Jesus when he is told that some Greeks have expressed a desire to see him:

1. Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, itproduces much fruit.

2. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.

3. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.

The synoptic Gospels include these statements as well, but not all together. Placing them all together in one statement at a critical point in St. John’s Gospel, I am reminded of a carpenter banging on a nail three times to drive it into the wood. Placed together, these three statements are a clear indictment of ego centric thinking. There simply is no place for it in the true disciple of Jesus.

The legend of St. Lawrence is, like so many of the stories that surround the lives of the Roman martyrs, is fascinating story telling. Yet it is the Gospel for the day that really illustrates what these men and women were really about. It was their blood that watered the soil that produced the Church. Their lives were clearly about others, not about themselves. Taking their cue from Jesus, they remind us that through our Baptism, we have dedicated our lives to others, not to our own interests. 

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M.

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