HOME CHAT NAB PRAYERS FORUMS COMMUNITY RCIA MAGAZINE CATECHISM LINKS CONTACT
 CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
 CATHOLIC SAINTS INDEX  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
 CATHOLIC DICTIONARY  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Home
 
Bible
 
Catechism
 
Chat
 
Catholic Encyclopedia
 
Church Fathers
 
Classics Library
 
Church Documents
 
Discussion
 
Mysticism
 
Prayer
 
Prayer Requests
 
RCIA
 
Vocations
 
Ray of Hope
 
Saints
 
Social Doctrine
 
Links
 
Contact
 









Enchiridion On Faith, Hope and Love
by Saint Augustine


CHAPTER XIX

ALMSGIVING AND FORGIVENESS

70. We must beware, however, lest anyone suppose that unspeakable crimes

such as they commit who "will not possess the Kingdom of God" can be perpetrated

daily and then daily redeemed by almsgiving. Of course, life must be changed for

the better, and alms should be offered as propitiation to God for our past sins. But

he is not somehow to be bought off, as if we always had a license to commit crimes

with impunity. For, "he has given no man a license to sin"154--although, in his

mercy, he does blot out sins already committed, if due satisfaction for them is not

neglected.

71. For the passing and trivial sins of every day, from which no life is free,

the everyday prayer of the faithful makes satisfaction. For they can say, "Our

Father who art in heaven," who have already been reborn to such a Father "by

water and the Spirit."155 This prayer completely blots out our minor and everyday

sins. It also blots out those sins which once made the life of the faithful wicked, but

from which, now that they have changed for the better by repentance, they have

departed. The condition of this is that just as they truly say, "Forgive us our debts"

(since there is no lack of debts to be forgiven), so also they truly say, "As we forgive

our debtors"156; that is, if what is said is also done. For to forgive a man who seeks

forgiveness is indeed to give alms.

72. Accordingly, what our Lord says--"Give alms and, behold, all things are

clean to you"157--applies to all useful acts of mercy. Therefore, not only the man who

gives food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothing to the naked, hospitality to

the wayfarer, refuge to the fugitive; who visits the sick and the prisoner, redeems

the captive, bears the burdens of the weak, leads the blind, comforts the sorrowful,

heals the sick, shows the errant the right way, gives advice to the perplexed, and

does whatever is needful for the needy158--not only does this man give alms, but the

man who forgives the trespasser also gives alms as well. He is also a giver of alms

who, by blows or other discipline, corrects and restrains those under his command,

if at the same time he forgives from the heart the sin by which he has been wronged

or offended, or prays that it be forgiven the offender. Such a man gives alms, not

only in that he forgives and prays, but also in that he rebukes and administers

corrective punishment, since in this he shows mercy.

Now, many benefits are bestowed on the unwilling, when their interests and

not their preferences are consulted. And men frequently are found to be their own

enemies, while those they suppose to be their enemies are their true friends. And

then, by mistake, they return evil for good, when a Christian ought not to return

evil even for evil. Thus, there are many kinds of alms, by which, when we do them,

we are helped in obtaining forgiveness of our own sins.

73. But none of these alms is greater than the forgiveness from the heart of a

sin committed against us by someone else. It is a smaller thing to wish well or even

to do well to one who has done you no evil. It is far greater--a sort of magnificent

goodness--to love your enemy, and always to wish him well and, as you can, do well

to him who wishes you ill and who does you harm when he can. Thus one heeds

God's command: "Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, and pray for

them that persecute you."159

154Ecclus. 15:20.

155John 3:5.

156Matt. 6:9-12.

157Cf. Luke 11 :41.

158This is a close approximation of the medieval lists of "The Seven Works of Mercy." Cf. J.T.

McNeill, A History of the Cure of Souls, pp. 155, 161. (Harper & Brothers, 1951, New York.)

159Matt. 5:44.


Such counsels are for the perfect sons of God. And although all the faithful

should strive toward them and through prayer to God and earnest endeavor bring

their souls up to this level, still so high a degree of goodness is not possible for so

great a multitude as we believe are heard when, in prayer, they say, "Forgive us our

debts, as we forgive our debtors." Accordingly, it cannot be doubted that the terms of

this pledge are fulfilled if a man, not yet so perfect that he already loves his

enemies, still forgives from the heart one who has sinned against him and who now

asks his forgiveness. For he surely seeks forgiveness when he asks for it when he

prays, saying, "As we forgive our debtors." For this means, "Forgive us our debts

when we ask for forgiveness, as we also forgive our debtors when they ask for

forgiveness."

74. Again, if one seeks forgiveness from a man against whom he sinned--

moved by his sin to seek it--he should no longer be regarded as an enemy, and it

should not now be as difficult to love him as it was when he was actively hostile.

Now, a man who does not forgive from the heart one who asks forgiveness

and is repentant of his sins can in no way suppose that his own sins are forgiven by

the Lord, since the Truth cannot lie, and what hearer and reader of the gospel has

not noted who it was who said, "I am the Truth"160? It is, of course, the One who,

when he was teaching the prayer, strongly emphasized this sentence which he put

in it, saying: "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will

also forgive you your trespasses. But if you will not forgive men, neither will your

Father forgive you your offenses."161 He who is not awakened by such great

thundering is not asleep, but dead. And yet such a word has power to awaken even

the dead.









Copyright ©1999-2018 e-Catholic2000.com