Thursday, March 3, 2005

Christian Tradition - February 26-March 3 (excerpts)


Our Lord Jesus Christ nourishes us for eternal life both by his commands, which teach us how to live holy lives, and by the eucharist. He in himself therefore is truly the divine, life-giving manna. Anyone who eats it will be exempt from corruption and will escape death, unlike those who ate the material manna. . . . Gather it, each of you, he said, with those who share your tent. Let none of it be left over till the morning. That is to say, we must fill ourselves with the divine teaching of the gospel. Christ indeed gives us his grace in equal measure, whether we are great or small, and bestows life-giving food on all alike. He wishes the stronger among us to gather for the others, working on behalf of their sisters and brothers, lending them their labor so that all may share in the heavenly gifts.

Cyril of Alexandria


The wealth of Christ's love for us

If, having been made in the image of God, you wish to be like him, follow his example. Christians, whose very name is a profession of love for everyone, should imitate the love of Christ.

Asterius of Amasea


You are a borrower

Hold your kingdom as something lent to you, not as if it were your own. For you know well that life, health, wealth, honor, status, dominion—none of these belongs to you. If they did, you could own them in your own way. But just when we want to be healthy we are sick; just when we want to be alive we die; just when we want to be rich we are poor; just when we want to be in power we are made servants. And all this because these things are not ours, and we can keep them only as much and as long as it pleases the One who has lent them to us. So it is really foolish to hold as if it were our own what belongs to another: it is, in fact, a thievery worthy of death.

Catherine of Siena


The act of kindness

The Lord Jesus, true teacher of the precepts that lead to salvation, wished to urge upon the apostles in his own time and all believers today the Christian duty of almsgiving. He therefore related the parable of the steward to make us realize that nothing in this world really belongs to us. We have been entrusted with the administration of our Lord's property to use what we need with thanksgiving, and to distribute the rest among our fellow servants according to the needs of each one. We must not squander the wealth entrusted to us, nor use it on superfluities, for when the Lord comes we shall be required to account for our expenditure.

Finally, at the end of the parable, the Lord adds: Use worldly wealth to make friends with the poor, so that when it fails you, when you have spent all you possessed on the needs of the poor and have nothing left, they may welcome you into eternal dwellings.

In other words, these same poor people will befriend you by assuring your salvation, for Christ, the giver of eternal rewards, will declare that he himself received the acts of kindness done to them.

Gaudentius of Brescia



True perfection does not consist in abandoning a life of sin as a slave might for fear of punishment; nor in doing good in the hope of receiving a reward. Expecting the virtuous life to yield a profit would be making it a matter of trade and commerce. No, it seems to me that to be perfect we must look beyond even the hoped-for blessings which we have been promised are stored up for us. Our only fear should be the loss of God's friendship, and the only honor or pleasure we covet should be that of becoming God's friend.

Gregory of Nyssa



People whose inner vision has been cleansed by the exercise of charity toward their neighbor can delight in the contemplation of truth in itself, for it is love of truth which makes them take upon themselves the misfortunes of others. ... There is a popular saying which well suits them: A healthy person cannot feel the pains of sickness, nor can one who is well-fed feel the pangs of hunger. The more familiar we are with sickness or hunger, the greater will be our compassion for others who are sick or hungry.

Just as pure truth can only be seen by the pure in heart, so the sufferings of our fellow men and women are more truly felt by hearts that know suffering themselves. However, we cannot sympathize with the wretchedness of others until we first recognize our own. Then we shall understand the feelings of others by what we personally feel, and know how to come to their help. Such was the example shown by our Savior, who desired to suffer himself in order that he might learn to feel compassion, and to be afflicted in order that he might learn how to show mercy.

Bernard of Clairvaux

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