For concerning the ministering to the saints, it is unnecessary for me to write to you:
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Cornelius a Lapide
y many remarkable examples are given by Leontius, in his "Life of John the Almoner," who, like the Emperor Titus , bewailed that he had lost a day because he had given no alms. "Even if the world," he said, "were to come into Alexandria, it would not narrow my liberality and wealth." This he learnt from a vision he saw of a certain virgin named Mercy, who, standing before God, seemed to obtain from Him all that she asked for. Hence this holy man John , when he had nothing to spend, would frequently, in his love of almsgiving, change miraculously tin or honey into cold. The more he gave the more was brought to him to spend; and so he seemed to strive with God and God with him which should be the most bountiful. When he at length died, he had half a piece of money left, and he ordered this to be given to his brethren and masters, the poor, that all he had might be restored to Christ.
Sophronius, in his Pratum Spirituale, a work mentioned with approval by the Second Council of Nice (Gen. Act. iv. c185), narrates that a wife gave to her husband, who wished to increase his wealth, the advice to sell what he had and give it to the poor, and he would find that he would receive it again with interest. He did Song of Solomon , and distributed his whole estate to the poor, and for fifty he received three hundred.
Sophronius has a still more beautiful example (c195) in the philosopher Evagrius, who, having heard in church that almsgiving was rewarded a hundredfold in heaven, gave 60 to the Bishop, Synesius, to be distributed among the poor, and received from him a written promise that for each he should receive a hundred in heaven. When he was dying, he ordered his sons to place this writing in his hand when he was buried. This having been done, Evagrius, on the third day after death, appeared to the Bishop in a dream, and said: "Go to my tomb and take back your handwriting, for I have received a hundredfold what I gave, according to Christ"s promise and yours." In the morning the Bishop went with his clergy to the tomb, and took from the hand of Evagrius a letter, of which this was the tenor: "Evagrius the philosopher to his Bishop. I am unwilling for you, my father, to be ignorant that I have received according to your promise the money that I gave you in my lifetime, and received for it a hundredfold; therefore you are not bound to me by any debt."
Similar examples are found in the life of S. Liduina and other Saints. Hence Chrysostom says that "alms have the name of seed, because they are not so much expended as returned." S. Deusdedit well understood this, for, as the Roman Martyrology records (Aug10th), although he was a poor man yet he gave to the poor every Saturday all that he had earned during the week, looking only to obtain the heavenly reward.
"If you have any care for your children, leave them a written deed in which you have God as your debtor," says S. Chrysostom, referring to money left for the poor by will. A famous example of this occurs in Sophronius (c201), in the case of a nobleman of Constantinople, who, when dying, left all his goods to the poor and his son to the care of Christ. Nor was he disappointed of his hope; for Christ gave his son a wife, who was at once noble, rich, and pious. S. Chrysostom wrote at the head of his Thirty-third Homily to the people, "that almsgiving is the most profitable of all occupations." Cf. Proverbs 19:17.
And increase the fruits of your righteousness. God will increase the outgoings of your righteousness and charity, ie, He will give an increase of grace here and of glory hereafter (Theophylact). "By fruits," says Anselm, "he means God"s eternal reward." The Apostle seems here to speak of three fruits of almsgiving: (1.) when he says, "Shall minister seed to the sower;" (2.) when he says, "And multiply your seed sown;" (3.) when he says, "And increase the fruits of your righteousness." In this sense S. Anselm, as related by Edinerus in his Life, when he entered Canterbury on a visit to Archbishop Lanfranc and was honourably and lovingly received by the citizens, said, when he was explaining to them the glory and merit of charity, that "those who do works of charity have something greater than those who are recipients of charity. For the one receives a temporal benefit only, but the other spiritual; and they look besides for eternal thanks from God." Christ said the same thing in His paradox on the rich of this world: "It is more blessed to give than to receive" ( Acts 20:35).
Anselm again understands this passage to refer simply to the fruits of temporal goods. God will make your fruits and riches to increase, that you may have ever more and more to give in alms, and He will increase the fruits of your righteousness. In other words, He will give much more abundant increase to those fruits of yours which your righteousness gains for you; for it is only just that, since God gives to man all that he has, man should from it give to him who is in need. If we do this, our fruits will he increased by God. Hence almsgiving is rightly called seed, because he who sows once will reap twice, once in earth and once in heaven. This is Anselm"s comment, and he seems to be right; for the Apostle is explaining the words, "shall multiply your seed," and is impressing on the Corinthians that alms do not impoverish but enrich the giver, that so he may remove from their minds and from the minds of all Christians all fear of poverty, which so frequently deters men from almsgiving, and which is given as an objection so often to the admonitions of those who urge the duty.
Nevertheless, it is simpler to understand fruits of your righteousness of the wealth which God gives to the beneficent as a harvest for what they have sown. The increase of these fruits is nothing else but the harvest that follows on the seed. Since, therefore, it is evident that when the Apostle said, "shall multiply your seed sown," he meant by seed the money spent on the poor, it is also evident that here he means the same thing. As is the seed, so is the harvest. The one is correlative with the other, as are merit and reward. This, then, seems to be the drift of the Apostle"s words.
Lastly, we should observe that he alludes to the fields and estates of the rich. Beneficence, he says, is like a field, or a very fertile farm, which brings forth to the almsgiver plentiful and never-failing fruits from the seed of his alms. (1.) It gives bread or food. (2.) It multiplies his seed, or money to be dispersed again among the poor. (3.) It also increases his fruits, and enriches his family. These three things a temporal lord gives to his husbandman if he is faithful and diligent; much more will God do the same.