Cups and Almsgiving

28th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday (Year II)

Psalm 119:41-48; Luke 11:37-41

After Jesus had spoken, a Pharisee invited him to dine at his home. He entered and reclined at table to eat. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not observe the prescribed washing before the meal. The Lord said to him, “Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil. You fools! Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside? But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you.”

In an oft-quoted story, G.K. Chesterton once responded to a query by The Times, “What’s wrong with the world today?” with the short quip, “I am.”

Chesterton’s humor and honesty are a wonderful antidote to the tendency to live on the surface—the outside of the cup and dish. A world dominated by social media and public image makes it all the more difficult to subject the inside to the cleansing light of the Holy Spirit.

“Cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean,” reads Matthew’s Gospel (23:26). Luke’s further recommendation of almsgiving includes forgiveness and prayer for all who have injured us, a sure sign of a clean heart. A pure heart is merciful and kind, but also courageous enough to offer fraternal correction like a true friend. 

St. Augustine writes:

“What our Lord says, ‘Give alms, and behold, all things are clean to you,’ applies to all useful acts of mercy. It does not apply just to the one who gives food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothing to the naked, hospitality to the wayfarer or refuge to the fugitive. It also applies to one 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 erring the right way, gives advice to the perplexed, and does whatever is needful for the needy. Not only does this person give alms, but the person who forgives the trespasser also gives alms as well… 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 person gives alms not only because he forgives and prays but also because he rebukes and administers corrective punishment, since in this he shows mercy…

There are many kinds of alms. When we do them, we are helped in receiving forgiveness of our own sins” (Enchiridion 19.72).

Let your mercy come to me, O LORD,
your salvation according to your promise (Psalm 119:41).

-GMC

One Reply to “Cups and Almsgiving”

  1. Giving is the ultimate Act of love as shown to us by the ultimate Giver, our Lord on the cross. In giving, we receive more than we give. I loved your post. It made me not only think, but remember to act. Thank you.

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