For those who have an opportunity to provide the poor with real help, we will say the following. There is pretend alms, for example, when they give a few coins to a large hungry family and think that they have done a great good deed. And then there is true alms, the real mercy, which truly wipes away the tears of the unfortunate and which is given with humility. It is the latter that we must be diligent in, and only then we will receive a reward from God.
The word of the church says, “Whoever wants to do charity should not care too much about whether he is giving it to a righteous or a sinner, a good or an evil person. What matters is giving everyone what is necessary. If you are satiated with expensive foods, give some bread to someone who is hungry. If you have drunk enough wine, pour a glass for someone who is thirsty. If you are warm wearing soft and expensive clothes, dress a naked and trembling person at least in a simple garment in winter. Do you own a beautiful and tall house? Bring a wanderer from the streets into it. Are you enjoying yourself with anyone? Amuse a grieving person. Are you rejoicing in something? Delight someone who complains. Has anyone appreciated your riches? Give a poor person some appreciation. Let your house be a place of rest for the servants of God and for all clergy. Be everyone’s comforter, as the Old testament Job was “eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame”. Become clothes for the naked and shelter for the homeless. Visit more often the prisoners and the sick, come more often to monasteries and holy places. And then you will hear the Lord’s voice saying, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world”.
What should we end these words with? Let us conclude them with the words from the book of Ezra. Do right to the widow, judge for the fatherless, give to the poor, defend the orphan, clothe the naked, heal the broken and the weak, laugh not a lame man to scorn, defend the maimed, and let the blind man come into the sight of my clearness. Keep the old and young within thy walls. Wheresoever thou findest the dead, take them and bury them, and I will give thee the first place in my resurrection. (2nd ESDRAS 2:20-23)
It is this kind of charity that is true, pleasing to God and, therefore, leads our souls to salvation. Amen.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds