St. John Chrysostom Reminds Us Who We Are

iurNothing is more frigid than a Christian who is not concerned with saving others. You cannot in this respect plead poverty; the woman who contributed her last two copper coins to the collection box will rise up to accuse you. So will Peter who said: “I have neither silver nor gold,” and Paul who was so poor that he often went hungry for lack of necessary food. Neither can you point to your humble birth: for they were also little people of the lower class. Ignorance will serve as no better excuse for you: they also were unlettered. Even if you are a slave or a fugitive, you can still do your part; such was Onesimus, and look to what he was called. And do not bring up in?rmity: Timothy was subject to frequent illness. No matter who you are, you can be useful to your neighbor if you are willing to do what you can.

Do you see how sturdy, fair, well-shaped, graceful, and magni?cent are the trees that do not bear fruit? Yet if we have occasion to possess a garden, we prefer pomegranate and olive trees ?lled with fruit. Sterile trees are there for appearance rather than utility; and if they can be useful, it is only in a very limited way. Such are those persons who consider only their own interest. And such persons do not even attain this end, for they are good only to be rejected, whereas the trees can be used to build houses. The foolish virgins had purity, grace, and modesty but they were not useful to anyone because they saw themselves rejected.

Such are also those persons who do not assuage Christ’s hunger. Note well that none of them is reproached for private sins—fornication, perjury, and the like—but only for not having been useful to others. I ask you, is someone who acts in this fashion a Christian? If the leaven mixed with the flour does not cause it to rise, is it truly leaven? If perfume does not have apleasing fragrance for those who come near, do we call it perfume?

Do not say that it is impossible to lead others into the fold, for if you are a Christian it is impossible not to do so. Indeed, if it is true that there is no contradiction in nature, what we have said is just as true, for it stems from the very nature of a Christian. If you claim that a Christian cannot be useful, you dishonor God and you behave like a liar. It is easier for light to be darkness than for a Christian not to send forth light [emphasis added]. Do not declare something impossible when it is the contrary that is impossible. Do not dishonor God.

—John Chrysostom, Homily 20 on Acts 3-4: 60, 162-164