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 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
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
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