June/July 2013 - Vol. 68
illustration by Kevin Carden
Seek to Save Others
by John Chrysostom (354-407 AD)
The light of a Christian cannot escape notice

There is nothing colder than a Christian who does not seek to save others. 

You cannot plead poverty here; the widow putting in her two small coins will be your accuser. Peter said: Silver and gold I have not. Paul was so poor that he was often hungry and went without necessary food. 

You cannot plead humble birth, for they were humbly born, of humble stock. You cannot offer the excuse of lack of education, for they were uneducated. You cannot plead ill-health, for Timothy also had poor health, with frequent illnesses. 

Each one can help his neighbor if only he is willing to do what is in his power. Look at the trees that do not bear fruit: have you not noticed how strong and fine they are, upstanding, smooth and tall? If we had a garden, we would much prefer trees with fruit pomegranates and olives   to trees that are for pleasure, not for utility, and any utility these have is small. 

Such are those men who think only of their own concerns. In fact, they are even worse: the trees are at least useful for building or for protection, whereas the selfish are fit only for punishment. Such were those foolish virgins who were chaste, comely and self-controlled, but did nothing for anyone. So they are consumed in the fire. Such are those men who refuse to give Christ food. 

Notice that none of them is accused of personal sins. They are not accused of committing fornication or perjury or any such sin at all: only not helping anybody else. The man who buried the talent was like this. His life was blameless, but he was of no service to others. 

How can such a person be a Christian? Tell me, if yeast did not make the whole mass like itself, is it really yeast? Again if perfume failed to pervade all around it with its fragrance, would we call it perfume? 

Do not say, “It is impossible for me to influence others”

Do not say: it is impossible for me to influence others. If you are a Christian, it is impossible for this not to happen. Things found in nature cannot be denied; so here, for it is a question of the nature of the Christian. 

Do not insult God. If you say that the sun cannot shine, you have insulted him. If you say that a Christian cannot help others, you have insulted God and called him a liar. It is easier for the sun not to give warmth or shine than for the Christian not to shed his light. It is easier for light to be darkness than for this to happen. 

Do not say then that it is impossible. The opposite is impossible. Do not insult God. If we have put our affairs in order, these things will certainly come to be, and will follow as a natural consequence. The light of a Christian cannot escape notice. So bright a lamp cannot be hidden. 

[This excerpt is from a Homily on the Acts of the Apostles. The English translation of the sermons of the Fathers from The Liturgy of the Hours © 1974, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.] 

[Brief bio of John Chrysostom > Click here]

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