“No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great.” ~ John Chrysostom
There are some people who think that they have a lock on Lent because they embrace all the regulations and disciplines of Lent. They fast more than anyone they know, sometimes even to the point of malnourishment. They give up all sorts of favorite things to the point that they become gloomy and disgruntled. They deprive themselves of anything that can be withheld and everyone knows about it.
There are other people who think that they are really great because of the things that they do. They promote giving to the poor. They head up committees to aid others. They engage in all sorts of activity.
In both settings above there is a major flaw: they do everything that they do for the sake of recognition and power while never actually doing anything for anyone themselves. Their actions are directed toward their own person and personal recognition rather than toward the needy. In the Gospels, we would simply here the phrase, “They are already repaid.”
Chrysostom reminds us that if we do no good for others, we can do nothing great. Oh, we might build up the best companies the world has seen, we might acquire all sorts of trophies, awards, and recognitions. However, if there is no one for whom we have done a bit of good, we are actually rather pitiful creatures.
Our faith, our Lord, demands action. Jesus has commissioned us to continue His work. His work was always people-oriented and that was His final instruction before His Ascension: feed the hungry, cure the sick, raise the dead, and announce favor from the Lord.
That’s a big list and it’s not going to get completed until we start on it.
FAITH ACTION: Make sure, when performing your Lenten works and sacrifices, that you are doing it for the Lord as well as for others rather than for yourself.