Keep watch in good works. Play the psaltery by obeying the commandments; play the harp by enduring your sufferings. “Break your bread with the hungry,” you have heard from Isaiah (58:7). Don’t think that fasting is enough. Fasting chastises you but does not renew anyone else. Depriving yourself will be fruitful if by it you bring comfort to others. OK, you’ve deprived yourself: to whom are you going to give what you took away? Where will you put what you denied yourself? How many poor people can feast on the meal we gave up! Fast in such a way that your joy is that your meal is that someone else is eating.
And do it for the sake of your prayers, that they may be heard. For he says there: “While you are still speaking, I shall say, ‘Here I am,’ if you break your bread from the heart” (Is 58:7, 9, 10). For quite often this giving is done by sad and grumbling people, just to get away from an annoying beggar and not in order to restore a needy person. “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7). If you give your bread reluctantly, you’ve lost both your bread and your merit. So do it from the heart so that the one who sees what is within you will say, even while you’re still speaking, “Here I am”–how swiftly are received the prayers of those who do good! This is our righteousness in this life: fasting, almsgiving, and prayer. Do you wish your prayers to fly to God? Give them two wings: fasting and almsgiving. May God’s light and God’s truth find us to be such persons, find us without fear when he comes to free us from death who has already come to undergo death on our behalf. Amen. (Augustine, EnPs 42 ; PL 36, 482)