Friends, today’s Gospel prescribes the disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. I want to speak about the Biblical principle behind almsgiving. I know I’ve quoted to you before some of the breathtaking remarks of saints and popes. For example, Pope Leo XIII said, “Once the demands of necessity and propriety have been met, the rest of your money belongs to the poor.” St. John Chrysostom said—and St. Ambrose echoed him—“For the man who has two shirts in his closet, one belongs to him; the other belongs to the man who has no shirt.” These ideas are, of course, rooted in the biblical prophets, who continually rail against those who are indifferent to the poor.
Compassion is key to Christian ethics, learning to suffer with and feel with the other. We’re not dealing with an abstract Aristotelian moral philosophy, but rather with something more visceral.
This is precisely why the two great commandments are so tightly linked: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart…and love your neighbor as yourself.” In loving God, you feel the feelings of God, and God is compassionate to the poor and oppressed. That’s all the argument that a biblical person needs.