Preaching Guidelines from the Catechism of the Council of Trent Concerning Almsgiving
Posted by Dim Bulb on January 30, 2017
What is to he thought concerning Alms, an Obligation implied by this Commandment
In this commandment is also implied pity towards the poor and the necessitous, and an effort on our part for the relief of their difficulties and distresses from our means, and by our offices. On this subject—which is to be treated very frequently and copiously—pastors, to enable themselves, to fulfil this duty, will borrow matter from the works of those very holy men, St. Cyprian (see here) John Chrysostom(here, here,) Gregory Nazianzen, and other eminent writers on alms-deeds (St Gregory of Nyssa: Two Homilies on Almsgiving, begins pg. 8). For the faithful are to be inflamed with a desire and with alacrity to succour those who depend on the compassion of others for subsistence. They are also to be taught the great necessity of alms-deeds, that with our means and by our co-operation we may be liberal to the poor, and this by the very true argument that, on the day of the last judgment, God will abhor those who shall have omitted or neglected the offices of charity, and hurl against them the sentence of condemnation to everlasting flames; but will invite, in the language of praise, and introduce into their heavenly country, those who have acted kindly towards the poor. Their respective sentences have already been pronounced by the lips of Christ our Lord: Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you; and: Depart from, me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire (see Mt 35:35, 41).
By what Means the People are to be incited to Alms-Deeds
Pastors will also employ those texts of Scripture most calculated to persuade to this duty: Give and it shall be given unto you (Lk 6:38) they will cite the promise of God, than which even imagination can picture no remuneration more abundant, none more magnificent: There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, &c., but he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, and in the world to come eternal life (Mk 10:29, sq); and he will add these words of our Lord: Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that when ye fail they may receive you into everlasting habitations (Lk 16:9). But they will explain the different heads of this necessary duty, to wit, that whoever are unable to give, may at least lend to the necessitous wherewithal to sustain life, according to the injunction of Christ our Lord: Lend, hoping for nothing again (Lk 6:35). The happiness attendant on such an exercise of mercy, holy David attests: A good man showeth favour and lendeth (Ps 112:5).
We must labour to bestow Alms and to avoid Idleness
But it is an act of Christian piety, should it not be in our power otherwise to deserve well of those who stand in need of the pity of others for sustenance, to seek by the labour of our hands to procure means of relieving the wants of the indigent, and also thus to avoid idleness. To this the apostle exhorts all by his own example: For yourselves, saith he, writing to the Thessalonians, know how ye ought to follow us;i and again, to the same: And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you;j and to the Ephesians: Let him that stole steal no more, but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.k
We must live sparingly in order to aid the Wants of Others
We should also practise frugality, and draw sparingly on the means of others, that we may not be a burden or a trouble to them. This exercise of temperance shines conspicuous in all the apostles, but pre-eminently so in St. Paul, who, writing to the Thessalonians, says: Ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail, for labouring night and day because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the Gospel of God;l and in another place: But wrought with labour and travail, night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you.m
By what Arguments the Christian People are to be induced to the Detestation of Rapine and the Practice of Benevolence
But to the end that the faithful people may abhor all such infamous crimes, pastors will recur to the prophets and other sacred writings, to show the detestation in which God holds the crimes of theft and rapine, and the awful threats which he sets forth against their perpetrators: Hear this, exclaims the prophet Amos, O ye that swallow tip the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail, saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn, and the Sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit.n There are also many passages in Jeremiah,o Proverbs,p and Ecclesiasticus,q to the same effect; and these, without doubt, are the seeds from which have sprung great part of the evils, with which in our times society is oppressed. But that Christian men may accustom themselves to every office of liberality and kindness towards the poor and the mendicant, an exercise of benevolence appertaining to the second part of this commandment, pastors will place before them those most ample rewards, which God promises to bestow in this life and in the next, upon the beneficent and the bountiful.