The Office of Readings, as it typically does, has an interesting reflection this morning in the second reading. An anonymous author from the 2nd Century in a homily wrote (my translation from the Italian):
“Fasting is worth more than prayer, but almsgiving counts more than both prayer and fasting: ‘Love covers a multitude of of sins (1Peter 4, 8). Prayer, prayed with a pure heart, frees from death, but blessed is he who is found perfect through almsgiving. This truly frees from sin.”
Today’s first reading at Mass from the Second Letter of St. John reminded us of the very same thing. He tells us that the new commandment is to love one another, and he tells us to remain true to that command of God. He also warned against those who are so “progressive” as to deny that Jesus the Son of God came in the flesh. What did he mean by that? I think he was saying, as was the author of the homily cited above, that giving of oneself lovingly is of utmost importance. Those who are so “progressive” as to deny Jesus in the flesh, may attempt to do good, but fail to recognize Jesus in the lives of those who suffer and stand in need. They fail to recognize Christ in the flesh of the poor. They take God out of the equation in their “almsgiving” to the needy. If Jesus is incarnate, then to love is to give to Jesus in the very real circumstances and lives of the poor, disenfranchised, forgotten, marginalized, handicapped, unborn, and abused of our world.