Basil the Great – A Sad Individual Indeed

Mass of St. Basil
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From the
Saint Basil (c.330-379), monk and Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, Doctor of the Church
Homily 7, on wealth; PG 31, 278

“At that statement…  he went away sad”

The incident of the rich young man and those like him makes me think of that of a traveler who, wanting to visit a certain town, arrives at the foot of the walls, finds an inn there, goes down to it and, discouraged by the short distance still to do, loses all the benefit of the difficulties of his journey and prevents himself from visiting the beauties of the town. Such are those who keep the commandments but can’t bear the idea of losing their goods. I know many people who fast, pray, do penance, and practise all sorts of works of piety very well, but who don’t spend a cent on the poor. What good are their other virtues to them?

These won’t enter the Kingdom of heaven, for «it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of heaven». Clear words, and their author does not lie, but rare are those who let themselves be touched by them. «How will we live when we are stripped of everything?» is what they exclaim. «What sort of life will we lead when everything has been sold and there is no longer any property?» Don’t ask me what deep design underlies God’s commandments. He who made our laws also knows the art of reconciling the impossible with the law.

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