Sunday, December 11, 2011

Excerpt from Homily I on Almsgiving by St. John Chrysostom

The Hospitality of Abraham, and the Symbol of the Holy Trinity (
Excerpt from Homily I on Almsgiving by St. John Chrysostom (amateur translation)
Again, we are given time by our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ for the seeds of almsgiving to fall upon our hearing. Again, Christ has given us the sower to imitate, who sowed his seed on good earth, and from it reaped a hundred-fold. For behold the message which is proclaimed from his hands. Behold the theater of almsgiving that has been gathered. For within have been called the lovers of God, and the lovers of honor and the lovers of the poor. Those who fervently desire crowns are called. For God is standing by, He Who grants confirmation, receiving the little money given by the lovers of the poor, and granting them the Kingdom of Heaven. I entreat you, let none of us forfeit this grace. Let none of us neglect this great and world-transcending gift for a little money: no poor man, nor rich man, nor servant, nor free man, nor wise man, nor worker, nor man, nor woman. But I entreat all of you, with diligence let us purchase the Kingdom of Heaven.

And let none of the poor say: “I am poor”, for he is first bound in constraint, and he thinks that he appears to have a perfect defense to God. For what would the poor man say: “I have no money, I cannot buy daily food, I am worried all day that I might find a way to survive. I beautify, I have children, I struggle, and the strength of my body wilts. And you sit in judgment of my struggles, while you reward others?” You speak of your struggles alone, and you think that the strength of your body is your possession. And do you not believe that, regardless of how small it may be, with the strength and power of your work, you can perform almsgiving? It is better to give a little with your body, that your soul might be granted a great treasure. For if I have ten coins and I give nine to the body and one to the soul, because of this, are all things of life put aside? If you make fifty coins, and give God five for the weak, and keep forty-five for yourself, the soul is strengthened, as is the body by continuous prayer, and you receive grace for further work, and to receive further reward, and you become richer than the rich by almsgiving. But you will always tell me: “And what do you say I will receive from this? For I will not be named 'poor', but 'a debtor to God'. And what do you say has happened to me?” Believe the Scripture which tells you: “He who has mercy on the poor lends to God” (Proverbs 19:17). And have you heard from Him: “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do it to me” (Matthew 25:40)?

You do not have to sit a long while in the market place till you see a rich man approaching, and you praise him saying: “Blessed is this rich man, for he has no needs of his own, but lends to others.” And though he lends to men, you lend to God. He from his struggles receives with effort and conflict in sin. You from God receive without toil, without care, and with joy a hundred-fold. He receives in this rocky life, you in the endless and eternal life which you inherit. If you do not believe me, believe God who informs us with an oath, and says: “Amen I tell you, you will receive a hundred-fold, and inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:29) He does not think that he will become less by giving to the poor, nor that he would become poor by giving to the poor. If the poor man has mercy on the poor man, he does not become poor, but is praised, and is more so insured against poverty. Do you hear the Prophet who says: “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken, or their children begging bread”, and again: “The righteous man has mercy and lends all the day, and his seed is blessed” (Psalms 37:25-26)? Why is it blessed? Because he who sows with a blessing, reaps with a blessing. As you take care towards your bodily needs, take care of those of your soul. For nothing else is needed by the soul, other than to cover the widow and orphan and poor man. Do not leave your soul to be seen naked by God on that fearsome and terrible day, but become arrayed in light through almsgiving, and appear with all glory before God. For God says through the Prophet: “Share your bread with the poor, and bring poor wanderers into your home, and then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you” (Isaiah 58:7-8). Do you see how great a share you are granted for a bit of bread or for a coin that you part with? Do you know how much light is the fruit of almsgiving? Do you wish to learn how great a treasure is granted to us for giving but a small amount to the poor?

Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

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