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REPENTANCE


 

 

THREE KINDS OF ALMSGIVING BY WHICH SINS ARE REDEEMED

Christ became man to provide opportunities by which our sins may be redeemed without great labor or difficulty. Since most men find fasting and abstention burdensome, Christ taught three kinds of almsgiving so, if the first is impossible, one may choose the second or the third. 

The first is to help the poor with our superfluities. God has given us more than we need so we can share it with the poor, thus redeeming our sins. We don't have to give up what we need for ourselves and our family. "I do not wish that the relief of others should become your burden." God does not need our superfluities; it was given to us for the redemption of our sins.

God made the poor that the rich may have occasion to show mercy. If all men were rich there would be no occasion for mercy. And the rich were made by God rich so that they may provide for the poor. 

This is the cleverness of Divine mercy. The poor redeem their sins by patiently bearing their poverty. So while the poor does not need the rich because they have their poverty, the rich needs the poor. So God has ordained that the poor shall always be with us, so their poverty can be alleviated by the rich. 

The rich has no excuse since only their excesses are to be shared with the poor. But, you say, I need my excesses to buy things I do not need, like luxuries. Would you rather have luxuries than redeem your sins? If we neglect the poor to satisfy our vanities, we will render to God an account for those who went hungry and naked and homeless because of our luxurious living.

If we are poor with nothing to share, then God will see to it that we incur injuries and hurts, firstly, from evil men and, accidentally, from friends. It is almsgiving to forgive those who hurt us, thus we can pray with a clear conscience, "Forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors."

If you forgive men their offenses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you your offenses. No one is excused from this because everyone can easily do it. You need no granary, cellar, or barn to forgive; just your heart. The good man from the treasures of his heart brings forth good things.

The rich man gives from his superfluities and, if unable to do so, he should harbor no hatred for anyone, nor return evil for evil. 

But, someone may suggest, I have no earthly substance to give to the poor and no one to forgive for no one has hurt me. What can I do to redeem my sins? A third form of almsgiving is to have good will for all men. "Peace on earth and to men of good will." Desiring good towards all men makes God propitious to us.

These are the three ways of almsgiving; join this to a life without sin and be a cheerful giver and you shall never be in want.

St. Caesarius of Arles, Sermo 30

 

 

 

 

 

(11-27-03)

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