Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Memorial of Saint John Chrysostom, bishop and doctor of the Church

(Colossians 3:1-11; Luke 6:20-26)

Christians in the West may not know St. John Chrysostom, but within Orthodoxy he is more famous than St. Augustine.  There are similarities between the two.  Neither grew up Christian, and both studied rhetoric as young men.  Both became bishops although Augustine’s diocese was backwater while John’s see was the imperial city of Constantinople.

John was both an eloquent preacher (Chrysostom means golden mouth) and an outspoken social critic.  He had little patience with imperial protocol and openly appealed to the wealthy to assist the needy before adorning a church.  In a famous sermon he said, "Give (Christ) he honor prescribed in his law by giving your riches to the poor. For God does not want golden vessels but golden hearts.”

John Chrysostom actually echoes both readings today.  The Letter to the Colossians admonishes: “’Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry.”   In the gospel Jesus is much more emphatic as he tells his disciples: “Blessed are you who are poor…But woe to you who are rich.’” He does not mean to say that the rich are damned only that to find their salvation they must help those in need.