Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

Lenten Lessons: Almsgiving

basilthegreat2The bread you do not use is the bread of the hungry. The garment hanging in your  wardrobe is the garment of the person who is naked. The shoes you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot. The money you keep locked away is the money of the poor. The acts of charity you do not perform are the injustices you commit.

What keeps you from giving now? Isn’t the poor man there? Aren’t your own warehouses full? Isn’t the reward promised? The command is clear: the hungry man is dying now, the naked man is freezing now, the man in debt is beaten now – and you want to wait until tomorrow? “I’m not doing any harm,” you say. “I just want to keep what I own, that’s all.” You own? … You are like someone who sits down in a theater and keeps everyone else away, saying that what is there for everyone’s use is his own … If everyone took only what he needed and gave the rest to those in need, there would be no such thing as rich or poor. After all, didn’t you come into life naked; and won’t you return naked to the earth?

St. Basil the Great

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