Lend to the Rich God

From “A Homily Preached in a Time of Famine and Drought” (369)

Are you poor? There is someone much poorer than you are. You have enough bread for ten days another has enough for one. As someone good and kind-hearted, make your surplus equal by distributing it to the needy. Do not shrink from giving of the little you have; do not value your own calamity above the common trial. Even if the food supply amounts to one loaf of bread, and the beggar stands at the door, bring the one loaf out of the storeroom and, presenting it to the hands which are lifted up to heaven, offer this merciful and considerate prayer:

One loaf which you see, O Lord, and the problem is evident: but as for me, I prefer your commandment to myself and I give of the little I have to the starving brother; for you also give to your servant in trouble. I know your great goodness and I also confidently believe in your power, for you do not defer your grace for another time, but disperse your gifts as you wish.

And if you speak and ask in this way, the bread that you should give out of your scarcity would become seed for planting, would bear rich fruit, a pledge of sustenance, a patron of mercy. Say to yourself what the widow of Sidon said in a similar situation — remember the well the story — “As the Lord lives, I have only this in my house to feed my children and myself.” And if you should give out of your state of deprivation you too would have the vessel of oil abounding with grace, the unemptying pot of fire. For God’s lavish grace on the faithful is exactly like that of the always emptying, never exhausting, double-giving vessels of oil.

O poor one, lend to the rich God. Believe in the One who is at all times taking up the cause of the afflicted in his own person and supplying grace from his own stores. Trustworthy guarantor, he has vast treasuries over all the earth and sea. In fact, even if you were to demand back the loan in the middle of the ocean, you would be guaranteed to receive the capital with interest. For in his generosity, he loves honor.

St. Basil the Great (330-379) was Bishop of Caesarea and a devoted advocate of Nicene Christology, traditionally acclaimed as one of the four Eastern Doctors of the Church. A rule written by him is the basis of communal monastic life in the Eastern Church, and he founded the first major Christian hospital. He preached this sermon during a severe drought that swept across Cappadocia. His feast day is June 14.

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