“Water extinguishes blazing fire: so almsgiving
atones for sin” (
3:30). The same synthesis ap-
pears in the New Testament: “Maintain constant
love for one another, for love covers a multitude
of sins” (
1 Pet
This truth greatly influenced
the thinking of the Fathers of the Church and
helped create a prophetic, counter-cultural resist-
ance to the self-centred hedonism of paganism.
We can recall a single example: “If we were in
peril from fire, we would certainly run to water
in order to extinguish the fire… in the same way,
if a spark of sin flares up from our straw, and we
are troubled on that account, whenever we have
an opportunity to perform a work of mercy, we
should rejoice, as if a fountain opened before so
that the fire might be extinguished”.
194. This message is so clear and direct, so
simple and eloquent, that no ecclesial interpre-
tation has the right to relativize it. The Church’s
reflection on these texts ought not to obscure or
weaken their force, but urge us to accept their ex-
hortations with courage and zeal. Why compli-
cate something so simple? Conceptual tools ex-
ist to heighten contact with the realities they seek
to explain, not to distance us from them. This
is especially the case with those biblical exhorta-
tions which summon us so forcefully to brother-
ly love, to humble and generous service, to jus-
tice and mercy towards the poor. Jesus taught us
De Catechizandis Rudibus
, I, XIX, 22:
40, 327.
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