Voices ever ancient, ever new. Monday-Week20-2013.

In commenting on Matthew 19:21 from today’s Mass Readings, Origen of Alexandria writes:

“Someone might ask, If a perfect person is one who possesses all the virtues and no longer acts out of malice, how can the person who sells all his possessions and gives it to the poor then be perfect? For granted someone has done this, how will he go forth instantly without rage if he has previously been subject to rage? How will he instantly be immune to grief and rise above all the worries that can beset someone and cause him grief? How can he be free from all fear, whether of troubles or of death or those things which can upset the still imperfect soul? How will it be that anyone who sells his possessions and gives them to the poor will lack all desire? More wisely a believer would seem to meet the question by keeping to the literal meaning and not expounding it allegorically. You decide for yourself whether what is said is worthily said according to its context or not. Some will say that anyone who gives to the poor is helped by their prayers. He takes for his salvation the abundance of the spiritual goods of those who are poor in material possessions to meet his own lack, as the apostle suggests in the second letter to the Corinthians. Who else would have this happen to him and be so greatly helped? For God listens to the prayers of so many poor people who have been relieved. Among them perhaps are people like the apostles or at any rate a little inferior to them, poor in material effects but rich in spiritual gifts. (Commentary on Matthew, 15)”