Bishop Jovan (Puric): The Mission of the Church

The Mission of the Church Among the Poor in the Context of 'the Economic Crisis' as an Opportunity For the Mission of the Church in the Contemporary World According to the Apostle Paul and St. John Chrysostom


Part I

The Apostle Paul says:
- Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do. (Gal. 2:10)
- Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Your browser may not support display of this image.Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. Your browser may not support display of this image.And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem. Your browser may not support display of this image.And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me. Your browser may not support display of this image.(1 Cor. 16:1-4)

- For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. (2 Cor. 8:9)

- But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints. Your browser may not support display of this image.For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. Your browser may not support display of this image.It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things. Your browser may not support display of this image.When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain. Your browser may not support display of this image.And I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ. Your browser may not support display of this image.Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; Your browser may not support display of this image.That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints; Your browser may not support display of this image.That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed. Your browser may not support display of this image.( Rom. 15:25-32)

a) St. Paul believed that the programme of help to the poor was a very important decision of the Apostolic Council.

b) On his missionary journeys he collected contributions for Jerusalem.

c) This is linked with the theological teaching of the Christian community and the Church's original service (2 Cor. 8:9; 1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 9:11)

d) St. Paul made a contribution at Antioch (Acts 11:27)

e) The Pauline programme of help to the poor has an ecclesiological and eschatological character. This is a testimony to the Unity of the Church.

f) The ultimate aim of that programme is a social ideal (expressed through grace, community, service) as the Church's response to God's will. This is in fact a new ethos of social life.

Preaching the Gospel on the part of the Church has always had a social character. The Church has transformed society only by preaching and testifying, i. e. through charitable acts and personal sacrifice, in the belief that in all people who suffer due to poverty, illness, ignorance, injustice, oppression, we can in fact see a continuation of the sufferings of the Crucified Christ Himself.

"And again, He hath enjoined the whole world and each one of us, who pray, to be subjected to his will. For he did not say "thy will be done in me or in us", but "on earth", the whole earth, so that error may be banished from it, truth take root in it, all vice be destroyed on it, virtue flourish on it, and earth no longer differ from heaven."1

Part II

The tenets of the ‘social Gospel' according to St. John Chrysostom:

1. Recognition of the general social equality of all people in a society in which there is no room for racial, national or any other social discrimination whatsoever.
2. Social care, charity and help on the part of the Church - directly serving the poor and the disadvantaged instead of devising plans for an ideal society (Fr. Florovski).
3. Experiencing the Church as a common spiritual home - our Father's Home.

St. John Chrysostom himself was a preacher and activist of the ‘social Gospel' - the best interpreter of St. Paul's teaching. His thoughts on the subject were clear: the poverty of the poor is a consequence of the rich getting rich. Wealth, therefore, directly stems from inequality among people, and that inequality is a result of deep injustice ruling "throughout the world" and a tragic consequence of original sin ... That selfish acquisition of wealth has always been at the expense of others and a source of evil in history.

In his Homily on Almsgiving and the Ten Virgins St. John Chrysostom says:

" Do you have a coin? Buy Heaven! Not because Heaven is cheap, but because the Lord is generous! You don't have a coin Offer a glass of cold water ... You don't have one? Cry with those who are grieving and you will receive your pay ... Give bread and receive Paradise. Give a little and receive a lot. Give the mortal and receive the immortal ... Almsgiving redeems the soul. "