LET US SERVE CHRIST IN THE POOR
(A READING FROM THE ADDRESSES OF ST. GREGORY NAZIANZEN [c.330-390])
Mercy is high in the list of the Beatitudes. ‘Blessed are the merciful’, says scripture, ‘for they shall obtain mercy.’ ‘Blessed is he who considers the needy and the poor.’ And again, ‘it is well with the man who deals generously and lends’. We read elsewhere: ‘The righteous man is ever giving liberally and lending.’ Let us lay hold of this blessing and earn a name for understanding, let us be kind.
Even the night must not interrupt your works of pity. Do not say, ‘Go away and come back. I’ll give it to you tomorrow.’ Nothing must come between your intention and your carrying out of your act of kindness. Kindness is the only thing which does not admit of delay.
‘Share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house’, and do so with joy and alacrity. ‘He who does acts of mercy’, writes the Apostle, ‘let him do so with cheerfulness.’ Then your good deed is doubled by your readiness. On the other hand, what is offered reluctantly and under constraint is unwelcome and unadorned.
Good deeds must be cheerful, not doleful. ‘If you get rid of oppression and unfair preference’, as it is written, that is, meanness and scrutinizing, or ambiguity and grumbling, what will happen? What a great reward awaits the man who does this! ‘Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily.’ Now who is there who does not long for light and healing?
If you are willing to listen to me, then, servants of Christ, His brothers and co-heirs, I say that we should visit Christ while there is opportunity, take care of Him and feed Him. We should honour Him, not only at our table, like some; not only with ointments, like Mary; not only with a sepulchre, like Joseph of Arimathea; nor with things which have to do with his burial, like Nicodemus, who loved Christ only by half; nor finally with gold, incense and myrrh, like the Magi, who came before all those whom we have mentioned. But, as the Lord of all desires mercy and not sacrifice, and as compassion is better than tens of thousands of fat rams, let us offer Him this mercy through the needy and those who are at present cast down on the ground. Let us do this so that, when we depart hence, they may welcome us into the eternal habitations, in the same Christ our Lord, to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
Taken from THE DIVINE OFFICE II – LENT AND EASTERTIDE – The Office of Reading – The Second Reading, pages 169-170.
A Christian Pilgrim