As St. Peter’s example shows, Christ’s command to give to everyone who asks something of us does not mean we must give everyone what they ask of us.
Whether we measure our love of others by our love of ourselves (Mk. 12:31) or by God’s love of us (Jn. 13:34), the measure of love is that which gives the recipient fulness of life (Jn 10:10), not the satisfaction of subjective desires.
Confronted with a lame beggar, Peter is unable to give him what he asks for—“silver and gold”—because the Apostle himself has forsworn such things in favor of a more radical good: the uninterrupted worship and praise of God (Acts 2:45-47).
Every day this beggar was laid “at the gate of the temple, which is called Beautiful” (Acts 3:2)—a symbol, the Fathers tell us, of Christ, the “image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15) and the “door of the sheep” (Jn. 10:7) by which we enter the temple of heaven.
Though the man was physically lame, he might have asked to be brought into the temple, but instead we find him fixed at its entrance, intent upon receiving alms from those, like Peter and John, who came to the house of prayer (Mt. 21:13) in order to pray.
Interrupted by the beggar’s request, the Apostles neither pass him by, nor toss him whatever pennies may have remained jingling in their purses. Instead, “Peter with John fastening his eyes upon” the man, “said: Look upon us.”
Obediently, the man “looked earnestly upon them.” Seeing men who no doubt exuded poverty as well as sanctity, the beggar instantly drops his demand for funds. Instead, he gazes upon them, “hoping that he should receive something of them”—recognizing that what they have to give is something hitherto foreign to him, but of far greater value than what he has consciously craved.
Giving what he has, St. Peter takes the lame man by the right hand, restoring to his “feet and soles” a strength they had been lacking from birth.
For those of us not given the gift of miraculous healing, the lesson may seem obscure. What follows demonstrates the ultimate and universal significance of Peter’s charity.
In taking the Apostle’s right hand, the beggar is cured not only of physical, but also of spiritual lameness. “Leaping up,” he goes with Peter and John “into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.”
No matter what others ask of us, and no matter what we are able to give, let us strive to do one thing: fastening our eyes upon them, and bidding them look earnestly upon us, let us invite them to walk, and leap, and praise the Lord in his holy temple.
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