+JMJ+ Welcome to part 8 of our Catholic Book of the Month, Introduction to the Spiritual Life: Walking the Path of Prayer with Jesus, by Brant Pitre. I’m on a Quest to become a saint and I’m using this book as my guide. Come along with me and let’s become saints together!
There’s more in the book than I can cover in these posts. You can get a copy of your own in hardcover or Kindle ebook format using the links at the end of this post. View other parts of the series on the annotated Table of Contents page. Scroll down on the page for this book’s links.
Last week we saw that fasting is the remedy for the disordered desire for pleasure or the lust of the flesh. This week we’ll see that almsgiving is the remedy for the disordered desire to possess, for possessions, or the lust of the eyes. And as Christians are to fast in secret, so we are to give alms in secret.
Now pay attention to the following quotes, they’re pretty important.
“It is impossible, though we perform ten thousand other good deeds, to enter the portals of the kingdom without almsgiving.”St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of John #23.
“Some are punished eternally for omitting to give alms.”St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II–II, q. 32, art. 5.
“Frequently give up some of your property by giving it with a generous heart to the poor.”Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, 3.15.
Dr. Pitre asks, “Is it really impossible to enter the kingdom of God apart from almsgiving? Is giving to the poor actually necessary for salvation?” (See page 244, ebook.) And he looks for the answer in the Jewish Roots of Almsgiving, in the words of Jesus in the Gospels, in Christian tradition, the letters of Paul and James, and other great spiritual writers. Let’s see what he found.
“[A]lmsgiving has the power to change the human heart…”.Introduction to the Spiritual Life: Walking the Path of Prayer with Jesus, by Brant Pitre, pg. 254
The necessity of almsgiving is rooted in Scripture. Get out your Bibles–I’ve always wanted to say that. But seriously, get out your Bible and look up these things and see for yourself. It’s there in a mitzvah (commandment) in the Torah in Deuteronomy 15:11 (this verse is similar to something Jesus said, I’ll leave it to you to spot it) and in Proverbs 19:17. Dr. Pitre points out that the word for being kind will later be translated as mercy (and we have what are known in the Catholic Church as the coroporal and spiritual works of mercy, it’s not something we added on to the Scriptures, it was there all along).
For Jesus’s words look to Matthew 5:42, 6:2-4, Luke 12:33-34, and in the parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25:41-46.
Look at 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 and James 2:15-17. The works James is talking about in the famous verse, “Faith without works is dead,” is the work of mercy, of charity, of almsgiving. The kind of faith that does not do this does not have the power to save. See James 2:14.
How to defeat cravings? By giving up the thing or things one craves. St. Francis de Sales has something to say about this. We quoted him above. And, more importantly, we learn to crave God, the Eternal Giver of the gifts, more than we crave the gifts themselves that are passing away. Here I’m speaking not of the gifts of the Holy Spirit but the myriad things God gives to each of us in our everyday lives, things which are good in themselves but which can become distractions and obstacles when we become greedy for them and put too much of our focus on them. We must learn to love God above all else. It’s what we were made for. It’s WHO we were made for.
So Dr. Pitre asked the questions, “Is it really impossible to enter the kingdom of God apart from almsgiving? Is giving to the poor actually necessary for salvation?” and the answer he found is, yes, a loud and resounding YES. Because to fail to show mercy and to love the poor is to fail to love Jesus Who is God. And that is quite the failure indeed.
Next time: Prayer, the remedy for the pride of life.
Thanks for visiting the blog and reading. I pray that you and I will stay holy and virtuous this Lent, and may these spiritual exercises aid us in becoming who the Lord intends us to be: SAINTS. God bless you and may His Peace be always with you. +JMJ+
Special notice: I’m giving away a copy of theGreat Adventure Bible from Jeff Cavins and Ascension Press, and the Introduction to the Spiritual Life by Brant Pitre. Enter the Giveaway here. Hurry! The drawing is on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022.
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Notes and Links
- The current Catholic Book of the Month is Introduction to the Spiritual Life: Walking the Path of Prayer with Jesus, by Brant Pitre: Hardcover, Kindle. (Amazon affiliate links, see Full Disclosure below.)
- There are a lot of books on the spiritual life listed in a post I did a few years ago on Dr. Pitre’s audio course on Spiritual Theology. There are links in that post for some of those books in PDF format for free at archive.org.
Image: in the banner, same one the cover of the book uses: The Road to Emmaus (or The Way to Emmaus), by Robert Zund, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain. Italianate Landscape with a Goat and Sheep, by Philipp Peter Roos, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain. Seven Acts of Mercy, by Caravaggio, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
Full disclosure: When you make any purchase through my Amazon affiliate links (or my general Amazon link) on this site, I may make a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you. And thank you for your prayers and support.