The call to repentance, to conversion, means a call to interior opening "to others". Nothing in the history of the Church and in the history of man can replace this call. This call has infinite destinations. It is addressed to every man, and it is addressed to each one for reasons specific to each one. So everyone must see himself in the two aspects of the destination of this call. Christ demands of me an opening to the other. But to what other? To the one who is here, at this moment! It is not possible to "postpone" this call of Christ to an indefinite moment, in which that "qualified" beggar will appear and stretch out his hand. [...]
It is necessary, [...] to accept this call of Christ in those ordinary everyday situations of coexistence and contact where each of us is always the one who can "give" to others and, at the same time, the one who is able to accept what others can offer him.
To realize Christ's call to open inwardly to others, means living always ready to find oneself at the other end of the destination of this call. I am the one who gives to others even when I accept, when I am grateful for every good that comes to me from others. I cannot be closed and ungrateful. I cannot isolate myself. To accept Christ's call to opening to others requires, as can be seen, a re-elaboration of the whole style of our daily life.
Let us here recall St Paul: "If I give away all I have... but have not love, I gain nothing" (1 Cor 13:3). St Augustine, too, writes well in this connection: "if you stretch out your hand to give, but have not mercy in your heart, you have not done anything; but if you have mercy in your heart, even when you have nothing to give with your hand, God accepts your alms" (Enarrat. in Ps. CXXV, 5).
We are here touching the heart of the problem. In Holy Scripture and according to the evangelical categories, "alms" means in the first place an interior gift. It means the attitude of opening "to the other". Precisely this attitude is an indispensable factor of "metanoia", that is, conversion, just as prayer and fasting are also indispensable. St Augustine, in fact, expresses himself well: "how quickly the prayers of those who do good are granted! And this is man's justice in the present life: fasting, alms, prayer" (Enarrat. in Ps. XLII, 8): prayer, as an opening to God; fasting, as an expression of self-mastery also in depriving oneself of something, in saying "no" to oneself; and finally alms, as opening "towards others". The Gospel draws this picture clearly when it speaks to us of repentance, of "metanoia". Only with a total attitude--in his relationship with God, with himself and with his neighbour--does man reach conversion and remain in the state of conversion.