Patriarch Daniel quoted a homily by St. John Chrysostom, where the great hierarch imagines a continuation of the dialogue in the Gospel passage about the Last Judgment: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (Matthew 25:31-46)
But Lord, why do you not bring other roads to mind? “I do not judge the sin,” He says, “but the inhumanity. I do not judge the ones who have sinned, but the ones who did not repent. I judge you severely for your inhumanity, because you disregard such beneficence, although you had almsgiving as such a great medicine of salvation, by which all sins are blotted out. I reproach, therefore, inhumanity as the root of wickedness and of every impiety. I praise love toward mankind as the root of all goods, and I threaten the inhumane with the eternal fire; to the beneficent I promise the Kingdom of the Heavens. (St John Chrysostom, Homily 7 on Repentance and Compunction, 26)
“Here we see that the ultimate criterion of people’s judgment is their way of being human, of being generous, of being merciful, of having sensitivity, of feeling the desire to give help to the helpless and to do good to those who need it,” the Patriarch of Romania explained.
“Today’s gospel reading teaches us that it is not enough not to harm anyone, but we must do much good to all the people we can help,” His Beatitude said Sunday at the Chapel of the Patriarchal Residence.
God does not accept carelessness and indifference, the Patriarch stressed, because there is a lot of selfishness in them. Whereas in almsgiving, in doing good, a great deal of merciful love is seen; the merciful love of Christ is seen working through compassionate people.
A Mobilizing Gospel
His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel said that this gospel passage inspired the Church’s philanthropic work.
“Along with other texts in the Holy Scriptures, especially the New Testament, this gospel urged the Church to help the hungry and thirsty by building canteens for the poor, to help the sick by building medical units to alleviate suffering, to help those imprisone by visiting them, by praying for them and not letting them fall into despair.”
“This gospel of the Dreadful Judgment is a mobilizing gospel.”
Another aspect highlighted by the Patriarch in his Sunday sermon was that almsgiving can be both material and spiritual.
“If we cannot help someone materially, we can still help them spiritually: first, we remember them in prayer, we pray for their health and salvation – especially for the sick, for the sad, for the lonely, distressed; then, we help our fellow human beings in need with a good word, a word of encouragement, a word of consolation, a word of reinforcement, a word of appreciation. Many people suffer from loneliness and forgetfulness. We can do alms through our presence in the house of a sick person, next to their suffering bed or visiting the jail.”
St. John Chrysostom remarked that the Saviour did not say, “I was sick, and you did not heal me,” or “I was in prison, and you did not save me,” but “I was sick and you did not look after me, or in prison and you did not come to visit Me.”
“So the Saviour does not ask of us what we cannot offer,” Patriarch Daniel stressed.
“In many ways and in many moments of life we can do alms. And by making selfless almsgiving, not to be praised by people but almsgiving springing from humble and generous love, then we become the hands of Christ’s merciful love and feel His humble and merciful love working in us. And those who receive alms from our hand receive it as from the hand of God,” Patriarch Daniel said, ending his speech.