Two kinds of almsgiving

From Augustine's second Lenten sermon:Christians understand how much they must avoid defrauding others when they recognizes that it is like cheating for them not to give their superfluous goods to someone in need. The Lord said, "Give and it will be given to you; forgive and you will be forgiven" (Lk 6:37-38). These two kinds of almsgiving, giving and forgiving, let us mercifully and fervently perform, we who pray the Lord to give us good things and not to repay us with evil things. "Give," he says, "and it will be given to you." What is more right, what more just, than that one who refuses to give cheats himself, receives nothing? If it is shameless for a farmer to look for a harvest where he knows he has not planted any seeds, how much more shameless is it for someone who asks his rich God to give although he refused to hear the poor begger. The one who never hungers wishes to be fed in the poor person. Let us not spurn our God when he is needy in a poor person, and our needs will be fully met by our God in his wealth.. If we both have and need, let us give in order to receive. And what is it that we are giving? And for that tiny, visible, temporal and earthly thing what is it that we desire to receive? "What eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor has it risen into a mans heart" (1 Cor 2:9). If he had not promised it, it would be shameless to give the former things and to want to receive the latter, and not to want to give the former even though we would not have even them unless they had been given to us by the one who pleads with us to give. How bold of us to hope that he will give tous in both cases when we scorn the one who commands us to give our trivial things!"Forgive and you will be forgiven." Pardon, that is, and you will be pardoned. Let servant be reconciled to fellow servant lest the servant be justly punished by his Lord. In this kind of almsgiving no one is poor. A person can do this and live for ever even if at some time he have nothing to live by. What is given gratuitously accumulates when it is given away, and it is exhausted only when it is hoarded. If some enmities have lasted into these Lenten days, let them be overcome and come to an end. Let them come to an end lest they bring you to an end. Dont grasp them and they wont grasp you. Let them be destroyed by the Redeemer so they dont destroy the one who clings to them. (Finiantur, ne finiant: non teneantur, ne teneant: perimantur per redemptorem, ne perimant retentorem.) (Augustine, Sermon 206, 2; PL 38, 1041)

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

Please email comments to [email protected] and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Must Reads