The chapters we are studying this week are about Generosity and Justice. Both of them are rooted in the command we are given to love God and love our neighbor. For, it is in this command that our Christian faith ceases to be for us a religious system of beliefs, and becomes something meaningful, real and practical. It is in these words that we are reminded that our hope of an eternal future with God should not eclipse our view of the current suffering and need of our neighbor; and that the here and now is as much a part of our faith as the yet to come. It is in loving our neighbor that we love God and are formed more into His likeness.
This is not a new concept to the Church. Church leaders, have encouraged Christians to obey this command for centuries. Today’s supplemental reading is three short quotes (though many more could be included) from the 3rd to 5th centuries on generosity and justice.
1. “Do not grieve or complain that you were born in a time when you can no longer see God in the flesh. He did not in fact take this privilege from you. As he says, ‘Whatever you have done to the least of my brothers, you did to me’.”
-St. Augustine of Hippo – lived and wrote in the 4th and 5th centuries
2.”The 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.”
-St. Basil the Great – 4th Century Bishop and Theologian
3. “Lift up and stretch out, your hands, not to heaven, but to the poor; for if you stretch forth your hands to the poor, you have reached the summit of heaven; but if you lift up your hands in prayer without sharing with the poor, it is worth nothing. Every family should have a room where Christ is welcome in the person of the hungry and thirsty stranger. The poor are a greater temple than the sanctuary; this altar, the poor, you can raise up anywhere, on any street, and offer liturgy at any hour.”
-St. John Chrysostom – 4th and 5th Century