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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
               Tuesday, September 17 2002 

Alms, and "as" and "like"

I was saying when we parted on Friday that I think the more Orthodox or biblically normative way to give alms is putting the gift from my hand to that of the needy recipient rather than through an agency. And I was promising to tie this back into the difference between using "as" and "like" in situations like the Lord's command, "Love your neighbor as yourself." Not "like" yourself or "as much as" yourself, but as though the neighbor is yourself. It's when we look into the eyes of the person we would like to help that we have opportunity of glimpsing ourselves. We may help our neighbors because we see them as "like" ourselves if we minister to them institutionally rather than personally, but we are much less likely to see them "as" ourselves when we do our almsgiving indirectly.

If you see your neighbor as being like yourself, you might not even feel constrained to like, much less love, the neighbor. Lots of times we don't like ourselves. I'm stupid; you're stupid, and such stupidity deserves more something like a kick than a handout. And because or despite the fact that I'm stupid enough, but for the grace of God, to have found myself homeless and hungry as you have, I'll give you a dollar anyway. Don't spend it on cheap wine.

"Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it unto me," Jesus taught His disciples (Matthew 25:40). Not only are you to love your neighbor as yourself, you're to love him as your Lord and God. Is this ironic? Is the most basic idolatry of all not worshipping ourselves, thinking ourselves the center of the universe and wiser than God and His prophets and evangelists? Yet by melding and extending these two thoughts—love your neighbors and through them love God—Jesus seems to be teaching us to love God as we love ourselves through loving our neighbors. The difference, that cuts across and through the irony of it is that, when we have our eyes on our neighbors and their needs rather than our own, yet esteem them as highly as ourselves, we'll be seeing in our neighbors not ourselves, but our Lord. And to whatever extent we minister to the least of these, we minister to and behalf of Him.

I think that for years I believed the greatest lesson to be learned in giving is to be generous. There's something to be said for generosity, but it tends to feed into pride rather than humility. It's only when you refrain from looking down on your down-and-out neighbors and lift them as though they're yourself that you learn humility and to crucify pride. That's the better lesson and the one that heals the ailing spirit and soul. And of course, infinitely easier said, in my case at least, than done.

Vacation photos: Unless some have been overlooked, all the photos of our recent trip are now on the tourist pages. The last small group catches some moments of
our final days in London.

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy

O what a tangled web we weave...

Joe graduated from Law School and decided to open up his own practice in his hometown. The first day the practice opened, Joe saw a man walking toward his office. He decided he was going to make a big impression. Joe picked up the phone and motioned the man in, all the while talking....

"No. Absolutely not, you tell those clowns in New York that I won't settle this case for less than one million. Yes. The Appeals Court has agreed to hear that case next week. I'll be handling the primary argument and the other members of my team will provide support. Okay. Tell the DA that I'll meet with him next week to discuss the details."

This went on for almost five minutes. The man waited patiently. Finally, Joe hung up the phone and turned to the man. "Sorry for the delay. As you can see, I'm very busy. What can I do for you?"

The man replied, "I'm from the phone company. I came to hook up your phone!"

—Sent by Mike Harrison

Thought for today

There would be no need for sermons if our lives were shining; there would be no need for words if we bore witness with our deeds. There would be no pagans, if we were true Christians.

— Saint John Chrysostom, 347-400 A.D.
Sent by Fr. Antonious Henein

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