As I’m sure you’re abundantly aware, today is the Memorial of St. Gerald of Aurillac, who also happens to be my confirmation saint. Yes, the late-9th and early 10th-century nobleman who made a vow of celibacy and sought to rule his territory according to the principles of the Gospel (yes, the Gospel can actually help you be a good civil leader!). You can read his biography or just get the skinny on him.
Of course, in celebrating his memorial, I was “reduced” to using the 2nd reading in the Common of Holy Men for the Office of Readings…of course. (Don’t worry if half those words are meaningless; it’s not the real point)! Thanks be to God for such a providential direction, for it led me to a forgotten, but excellent exhortation by St. John Chrysostom, which I found to be beautiful, and so thought it worth sharing:
From a homily on the Acts of the Apostles by Saint John Chrysostom, bishop (Homilia 20, 4: PG 60, 162-164)
There is nothing colder than a Christian who does not seek to save others.
You cannot plead poverty here; the widow putting in her two small coins will be your accuser. Peter said, Silver and gold I have not. Paul was so poor that he was often hungry and went without necessary food.
You cannot plead humble birth, for they were humbly born, of humble stock. You cannot offer the excuse of lack of education, for they were uneducated. You cannot plead ill-health, for Timothy also had poor health, with frequent illnesses.
Each one can help his neighbor, if only he is willing to do what is in his power. Look at the trees that do not bear fruit: have you not noticed how strong and fine they are, upstanding, smooth, and tall? If we had a garden, we would much prefer trees with fruit—pomegranates and olives—to trees that are for pleasure, not for utility, and any utility these have is small.
Such are those men who think only of their own concerns. In fact, they are even worse: the trees are at least useful for building or for protection, whereas the selfish are fit only for punishment. Such were those foolish virgins who were chaste, comely, and self-controlled, but did nothing for anyone. So they are consumed in the fire. Such are those men who refuse to give Christ food.
Notice that none of them is accused of personal sins. They are not accused of committing fornication or perjury or any such sin at all: only of not helping anybody else. The man who buried the talent was like this. His life was blameless, but he was of no service to others.
How can such a person be a Christian? Tell me, if yeast did not make the whole mass like itself, is it really yeast? Again, if perfume failed to pervade all around it with its fragrance, would we call it perfume?
Do not say, “It is impossible for me to influence others.” If you are a Christian, it is impossible for this not to happen. Things found in nature cannot be denied; so it is here, for it is a question of the nature of a Christian.
Do not insult God. If you say that the sun cannot shine, you have insulted Him. If you say that a Christian cannot help others, you have insulted God and called Him a liar. It is easier for the sun not to give warmth or shine than for the Christian not to shed his light. It is easier for light to be darkness than for this to happen.
Do not say then that it is impossible. The opposite is impossible. Do not insult God. If we have put our affairs in order, these things will certainly come to be and will follow as a natural consequence. The light of a Christian cannot escape notice. So bright a lamp cannot be hidden.
St. Gerald of Aurillac, pray for us! St. John Chrysostom, pray for us!