St John the Almsgiver

Patriarch of Alexandria (entered heaven around 619)

Dear Ruby,

In my avuncular opinion, you are worrying about the wrong thing.  Discerning God’s call in your life is not about tallying all the things you have to give up if you consecrate your life to his service and then sighing with regret.  Not at all! Following God is about loving! It’s about joyfully giving him everything you have and then looking for more to give! Haven’t you ever heard the favorite saying of wise Christian widows, “God can never be outdone in generosity”?  There is nothing truer.

It is a truth that today’s saint grasped firmly, much to the delight of the thousands of Christians under his charge in the great metropolis of Alexandria, Egypt, the exchange center of the ancient Mediterranean world.  He is called St John the Almsgiver because his number-one diocesan priority was the relief of the poor. Before he had been in the bishopric for a month, he had emptied out the vast sums of money in his treasuries (it was one of the riches patriarchates in all of Christendom) in support of the monasteries and hospitals.  The constant revenues of his see, along with a steady stream of contributions that he obtained (not without effort) from wealthy Christians, flowed continuously into the hands of those in need. His stewards complained vehemently, accusing him of impoverishing his church. He merely replied with a smile that God would provide for them (which he did).  Once when a recipient of his benefactions was thanking him too profusely (at least, so the Patriarch judged), he said to him, “Brother, I have not yet shed my blood for you, as Jesus Christ, my Master, and my God, commands me to do.” St John the Almsgiver had come to understand the real meaning Christian love: give and give and never count the cost.

Only in heaven will we find out how much eternal good this one man did through his faith-filled generosity.  If you follow his example, giving God whatever he asks of you (even if it’s your most cherished plans) for the sake of his Church and out of love for him, you too will store up dazzling treasures in heaven, where no one and nothing can take them away.

Your loving uncle, Eddy

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