Lent, community and giving to those in need

“The rich declare themselves the masters of the common goods they possess because they were the first to usurp them. If people kept only what is required for their daily needs and if the surplus were given to the poor, both riches and poverty would be abolished.” St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, 4th Century

“Are you not a thief? The goods entrusted to your stewardship you have hoarded. The bread you reserve belongs to the hungry. The coat hidden in your chest belongs to the naked. The shoes rotting in your house belong to those walk barefoot. Thus you oppress as many as you help… the Lord our God wants this earth to be the common possession of all human beings and its fruits to be for the use of all, but greed has produced the division of the land. Consequently, if you claim as your own part of what has been given for the use of all humankind and even the animals, it is fair for you to distribute at least part of it to the poor. They have the same rights as you.” St. Basil, Bishop of Caesarea, 4th Century

“They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread, and to the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, and many signs and wonders were done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them along all according to each one’s need. Every day the devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple and to breaking the bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” Acts 2: 46-47

So it seems that there is a strong tradition in Christianity of communal life – the acknowledgement that we’re all in this thing together, and that God wants it that way. Living my faith separate from others or in a “me and Jesus alone” dynamic is not true to our roots and core identity. We best know and are known in community.

A constitutive element of our faith is sharing our resources generously and at some sacrifice to ourselves. We do this not only because it’s right, but because it is just.

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