"No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great." - St. John Chrysostom (347-407 C.E.)
This week I found myself in a Lenten rut: not sure if my spiritual practices were helping; feelingout of sorts. And so I was fortunate when a colleague, for no particular reason, posted the quote above on my FaceBook timeline. I was certainly in need of some wisdom from John Chrysostom.
John Chrysostom, ascetic, preacher, Archbishop of Constantinople, is one of my church heroes. He was called "Chrysostom" or "golden-mouth" because of his ability to move people, to foster transformation in their lives, with his words.
John Chrysostom's words were, more often than not, about the radical grace humanity had received from God in the person of Jesus. He was stalwart in his beliefs that our understanding of that grace was reflected in the actions of our daily life.
John was not perfect, of course. His fear of "Judaizing Christians" influencing the church has been blamed for the wedge between Christians and Jews. He has been judged harshly for his intolerance and his insistence on wifely submission, both of which, I think are often taken out of context.
But, what I love about John Chrysostom is his absolute clarity that the way of Christ is not about power politics. The way of Christ is about caring for the poor; striving for justice; knowing that no one turns from sin-through-violence but by the persuasion of the Holy Spirit.
John Chrysostom understood that people of faith, LIVE, WORK, and TREAT OTHERS with integrity and with love. And if you don't get that about the Gospel, then you really don't get it.