Tuesday, 28th Week in Ordinary Time           

            “Give alms, and behold, everything we be clean for you.”

            Jesus concluded today’s gospel passage by prescribing giving alms as a key to holiness. Almsgiving is an effective antidote to greed and selfishness. Giving to the poor cleanses everything.

            Pope Leo XIII says that once the demands of necessity and propriety have been met, the rest of your money belongs to the poor. St. John Chrysostom talks about almsgiving in these words: “The man who has two shirts in his closet, one belongs to him; the other belongs to the man who has no shirt.”

            The deepest root of all of this is in the prophets, who continually rail against those who are indifferent to the plight of the poor, the deprived and the oppressed. The prophets teach us that compassion is key to biblical ethics. Compassion is defined as feeling the pain of others in our own hearts. We are not dealing with an abstract moral philosophy – like the philosophy of Aristotle – but rather with something more visceral. St. Basil enlightens us on this matter by saying almost the same thing with St. John Chrysostom: “The bread that you store up belongs to the hungry; the extra clothes that you pile in your cabinets belong to the needy; and the money you have hidden in the ground belongs to the poor.”

            The kind of almsgiving we are talking about here is not just the giving of small amount of money to the poor, but the giving of ourselves for the betterment of their situation. It is the generous sharing of our time, talent, and resources in the service of the lost, the last, and the least. Such generosity can only come from a heart that is open to God, whose generosity is not only far greater than ours, but is contagious.

            This is precisely why the two great commandments are so tightly linked: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” “And love your neighbor as yourself.” In loving God, you feel the feelings of God, and God is compassionate to the poor and always acts on behalf of the oppressed. This is all the argument that we need.

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