My friend, Brian Daley, S.J., who teaches theology at Notre Dame, is one of the world's pre-eminent scholars in the field of Patristics. He was recently awarded the Ratzinger Prize for outstanding contributions to theology.
Daley has just published a book, Light on the Mountain, a translation with introduction and notes of a number of homilies by the Greek fathers on the Transfiguration of the Lord (St. Vladimir's Press). Here is an excerpt from a homily of Saint John Chrysostom whose feast we celebrate today:
This is the reason you have money: that you may put an end to poverty, not that you may turn poverty into a business! Instead, under the guise of offering others help, you make their misfortune greater, and sell human kindness for money. Sell your wares and I won't prevent you: but trade in the kingdom of heaven! Don't accept the fat compensation of a one-percent monthly interest for such a virtuous act, but rather the reward of life without end. Why are you so poor, so cheap and petty in your thinking, that you sell great things for a trifle – for money that perishes – when you ought to be selling it for the Kingdom that always lasts? Why do you cast God away to gain human profit?
In his "Introduction" Daley says: "Although the connection of usury to the Gospel story of the Transfiguration is tenuous, the sermon as a whole reveals Chrysostom's relentless moral seriousness, and his concern to have the liturgy and the public preaching of the Gospel make a perceptible difference in how the faithful live."
Daley notes that the Emperor Constantine had fixed the legal interest rate on a loan at twelve-percent a year (hence the reference in the homily to one-percent monthly interest). In a laconic aside he observes that credit card interest today is in the neighborhood of eighteen-percent.