Have you seen the insignificance [the worthlessness] of human affairs? Have you seen the frailty of power? Have you seen the wealth which I [have] always called a runaway and not a runaway only, but also a murderer. For it not only deserts those who possess it, but also slaughters them; for when any one pays attention to it then the most it does for him is to betray him. Why do you pay attention to wealth which today is yours, and tomorrow is another’s? Why do you court [or attract] wealth which can never be held fast [close]? Do you desire to court it? Do you desire to hold it near? Do not bury it but give it into the hands of the poor. For wealth is a wild beast: if it is held tightly it runs away: if it is let loose it remains where it is; “For,” it is said, “he has dispersed abroad and given to the poor; his righteousness abides forever. (Ps 112.9)” Disperse it then that it may remain with you; do not bury so that it does not run away. Where is wealth? I would gladly ask of those who have departed. Now I say these things not by way of reproach, God forbid, nor by way of irritating old sores, but as endeavouring to secure a haven for you out of the shipwreck of others. When soldiers and swords were threatening, when the city was in a blaze of fury, when the imperial majesty was powerless, and the purple was insulted, when all places were full of frenzy, where was wealth then? Where was your silver plate? Where were your silver couches? Where your household slaves? They had all fled away; where were the eunuchs? They all ran away; where were your friends? They changed their masks. Where were your houses? They were shut up. Where was your money? the owner of it fled: and the money itself, where was that? It was buried. Where was it all hidden? Am I oppressive and bothersome to you in constantly declaring that wealth betrays those who use it badly? The occasion has now come which proves the truth of my words. Why do you hold it so tightly, when in the time of trial it profits you nothing? If it has power when you fall into water, let it come to your aid, but if it then runs away what need do you have of it? The events themselves bear witness. What profit was there in it? The sword was sharpened, death was impending, an army raging: there was apprehension of imminent peril; and yet wealth was nowhere to be seen. Where did the runaway flee? It was itself the cause which brought about all these evils, and yet in the hours of necessity it runs away. Nevertheless many reproach me saying that I am always too hard upon the rich: while they on the other hand are hard up the poor. Well I do fasten upon the rich: or rather not the rich, but those who make a bad use of their riches. For I am continually saying that I do not attack the character of the rich man, but of the greedy. A rich man is one thing, a greedy man is another: an affluent man is one thing, a covetous man is another. Make clear distinctions, and do not confuse things which are diverse. Are you a rich man? I do not forbid you. Are you an overly greedy man? I denounce you. Do you have property of your own? Enjoy it. Do you steal the property of others? I will not hold my peace. Would you stone me for this? I am ready to shed my blood: only I forbid your sin. I do not take notice of hatred, I pay no attention to war: one thing only do I work towards, the advancement of my hearers. The rich are my children, and the poor also are my children: the same womb has travailed with both, both are the offspring of the same birth-pangs. If you then lay reproaches on the poor man, I denounce you: for the poor man does not suffer so much loss as the rich. For no great wrong is inflicted on the poor man, seeing that in his case the injury is confined to money; but in your case the injury touches the soul. Let him who wills cast me off, let him who wills stone me, let him who wills hate me: for the plots of enemies are the pledges to me of crowns of victory, and the number of my rewards will be as the number of my wounds. St. John Chrysostom, Homily 2 on Eutropius, Chapter 5.
Let us reflect not only on the beauty of this passage and the bravery of this father in proclaiming the truth but also on our own attachments. Are we attached to our image or perhaps to our pleasures our maybe even to our money as in the case of Chrysostom’s hearers? Let us examine our souls this lenten season and purge ourselves of the many addictions and passions we have accumulated. We see from St. John Chrysostom that these things are not evils in and of themselves but rather the use of them that constitutes evil. Food is not evil but rather a gift given by God to nourish our bodies that might pursue His will in our lives. Money is not evil but is rather a means by which we can nourish our brethren and aid those who are created in the Image and Likeness of God. If we erect idols in our lives out of our passions then this is where we have gone wrong. Let us pursue God through our body and the means given to us.
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