San Lorenzo Ruiz at this Time of Pandemic: A Message to SPAS Teachers and Staff
“A church that does not remember its persecuted brethren is no church at all."
We are gathered this afternoon to celebrate Chinese-Teachers day with the intention too of incorporating the feast of San Lorenzo Ruiz, the first Filipino-Chinese martyr. As we celebrate Teachers' Day, let us not only remember our martyred brother and his companions but also draw inspiration from his courage and also ask for his intercession. I hope we have not forgotten to pray, we have not given up praying, and we have not become despondent because of the prolonged agony we are all experiencing. Let us draw inspiration from San Lorenzo Ruiz who endured a prolonged agony among his torturers until he again experienced a prolonged agony hanging upside down in a pit until he died of suffocation. He was granted the gift of martyrdom. Let us look at our situation with the eyes of faith. This is not a crisis anyone wants, but I am hoping this crisis displays who Christians really are. This current crisis has revealed who we are and has taught us a lot of lessons. I am sure it has also affected our faith, hope and charity towards others.
Let us face our situation with the faith and courage of San Lorenzo Ruiz. Our daily difficulties, problems and suffering during this pandemic will reveal what kind of Christians we really are. We thank him that despite all the difficulties and challenges we have encountered, we continue serving and loving others as Christ himself has served us through His death and resurrection. This is central to our faith — even when it involves personal risk and cost. That’s what I hope this crisis will reveal. Personally, I have never been closer to Christ, the Blessed Mother and the Saints during this pandemic.
Today, let us step back for a moment. It is worth asking why we Christians during this pandemic have and are now again called to live in such a sacrificial way. The answer in part is the description of Christians as “citizens of heaven” (Philippians 3:20). That is, our hope is not in this life but in the one to come. Let us never forget that like San Lorenzo Ruiz, we are citizens of heaven.
While everyone is joyful and good at talking in times of peace, moments of crisis define who we truly are and what we truly believe. They reveal our values and real attitudes.
In one famous example, the church historian, Eusebius, described a fourth century epidemic that swept through the Roman Empire. Far from fleeing the cities or shutting off their homes from others, Eusebius recorded that “all day long [Christians] tended to the dying and to the burial, countless numbers with no one to care for them. Others gathered together from all parts of the city a multitude of those withered from famine and distributed bread to them all.” As a result, Eusebius concluded, “[the Christians’] deeds were on everyone's lips, and they glorified the god of the Christians.” We are not fleeing but facing the challenges of remote learning and instruction.
San Lorenzo understood well who Jesus is and he fully knew the Way of Jesus.
REFLECTION: To what extent can we say that we understand and accept the idea of the suffering Christ? We are used to looking at the cross of Jesus but to what degree do we see the place of suffering in our own lives? There are a lot of crosses to bear during this pandemic. Can we see that, without pain and suffering in our own lives and in those of others, our lives would be in many ways impoverished? Strange as it may seem, it is pain and suffering that can bring out what is most deeply human in all of us. It will bring out our identity as true Christians! Onward Christian teachers!
For those who feel like giving up please remember this: Christ is intimately with us when we share our sufferings with Him. Let us rejoice that like San Lorenzo Ruiz, we are given a share in the suffering of Christ. It is a privilege, and let us not despair but rather rejoice that we will someday join the Saints in heaven.
Rev. Fr. Emilio A. Ascaño, LRMS