Almsgiving: An Expression of Gratitude

When we look at the three traditional “disciplines” of Lent, prayer, fasting and almsgiving, we know that almsgiving gets the least attention. Yet, the Bible places emphasis firmly on almsgiving:

Prayer and fasting are good, but better than either is almsgiving accompanied by righteousness … It is better to give alms than to store up gold; for almsgiving saves one from death and expiates every sin. Those who regularly give alms shall enjoy a full life (Tobit 12:8-9).
Almsgiving is simply an expression of our gratitude for all that God has given us, and a realization that as a member of a community of faith, it is never just about “me and God.” It is fundamental to being a good steward of our community. For disciples of the Lord, almsgiving means much more than simply throwing a little change in the poor box. It is an attitude of generosity. It challenges us to examine how we are using our time, abilities, and money to better the lives of those around us. It urges us to share what we have been given by God with others in love and justice. It reminds us that Jesus blesses those who seek to be “poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3).

Almsgiving opens our hearts to the realization that God blesses us through those we serve. It is here that we find the great mystery of Christian service. We see God in the life of Jesus, and we see Jesus in all those who are in need of our care. Look around, see those who are in need, and ask God to take away those obstacles and distractions that keep us from being generous with them. In turn, we will receive God’s blessing.

Consider one or more of these creative almsgiving ideas for the remainder of this Lenten season:

• Show an act of kindness to some¬one you don’t speak to often.

• Visit an elderly person who may be lonely.

• Reflect on the regular contributions you make to the parish. Could you do more?

• Perform an extra chore for your parents one day each week during Lent.

• Go through your closet and find some clothes in good shape to give away to other children who are in need of clothes.

• Write a letter or create a card for someone who is sick or might be lonely.

• Buy some cans of food to give to a local food bank or soup kitchen.

• Donate diapers, formula, baby clothing, baby furniture or maternity clothing to a local crisis pregnancy center.

Accept the Grace of Reconciliation

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is ALWAYS a beautiful thing. I had a friend recently who hadn’t been to confession in about 40 years. I’m sure you know someone like that…maybe yourself? He decided in his heart that it was time to go, but he feared being judged or chastised. I assured him that God would be thrilled to see him return to grace.

So, he corralled his fears and trepidation and showed up at the confessional one Saturday. Rather than scolding him for his absence, the priest asked “Why now? What brought you back to the Sacrament?” We all have our reasons why we stay away and we all have our reasons why we return. If it’s been awhile, why not now? Why not this Lent? God is patiently waiting for you to kneel before Him and say “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.”

Our parish is hosting a Communal Lenten Penance Service on Tuesday, March 3 at 6:30 p.m. As a community, we will share a short prayer service, an examination of conscience, and then each penitent will have the opportunity to meet privately with a confessor. (About 10 priests will be on hand for the evening.)

If you would rather go to confession in the traditional manner, we will continue to offer confessions every Saturday in Lent at 8:00 a.m.

Your other option is to attend a Communal Penance Service at a neighboring parish. (See list at far right.)

EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE:

I AM THE LORD YOUR GOD: YOU SHALL NOT HAVE STRANGE GODS BEFORE ME. Have I treated people, events or things as more important than God?

YOU SHALL NOT TAKE THE NAME OF THE LORD YOUR GOD IN VAIN. Have my words, actively or passively, put down God, the Church, or people?

REMEMBER TO KEEP HOLY THE LORD’S DAY. Do I go to Mass every Sunday and on Holy Days of Obligation? Do I avoid, when possible, work that impedes worship to God, joy for the Lord’s Day, and proper relaxation of mind and body? Do I look for ways to spend time with family or in service on Sunday?

HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER. Do I show my parents due respect? Do I seek to maintain good communication with my parents where possible? Do I criticize them for lacking skills I think they should have?

YOU SHALL NOT KILL. Have I harmed another through physical, verbal or emotional means, including gossip or manipulation of any kind?

YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY. Have I respected the physical and sexual dignity of others and of myself?

YOU SHALL NOT STEAL. Have I taken or wasted time or resources that belonged to another?

YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS AGAINST YOUR NEIGHBOR. Have I gossiped, told lies, or embellished stories at the expense of others?

YOU SHALL NOT COVET YOUR NEIGHBOR’S SPOUSE. Have I honored my spouse with my full affection and exclusive love?

YOU SHALL NOT COVET YOUR NEIGHBOR’S GOODS. Am I content with my own means and needs, or do I compare myself to others unnecessarily?

Lent is Just Around the Corner

The Season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 18. That’s just 3 days from now! So now is an appropriate time to think about your Lenten Journey.

You will notice on the back page of this publication, I have printed all the liturgies, devotions and events that are being offered at St. Mary’s this Lenten Season.

Please take the time to read it over. Think about the various opportunities made available to you. Maybe you’ve never spent time in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. You can sign up for an specific hour each week, or you can just drop in at any time the Chapel is open. Jesus is there in the Blessed Sacrament, just waiting for your visit. It’s like stopping in to see your best friend. You’re friends whether or not you see each other often, but isn’t it amazing when you get together and share a little of your precious time?

When was the last time you came to the Stations of the Cross? Or received the Sacrament of Reconciliation?

Catholics tend to think that Lent is all about giving up. “What are you giving up for Lent this year?” Soda, coffee, cigarettes, candy? There’s nothing wrong with making a sacrifice during these 40 days. After all, Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us. But what if, this year, right now, you look at Lent in a different way. Instead of “Sacrificial Living”, you think about “Sacrificial Giving”.

Sacrificial Giving is what some people call Giving ‘Til It Hurts. I don’t know that we are expected to hurt ourselves, but I do believe we are expected to go out of our comfort zone.

The principles of Stewardship challenge you to accept God’s gifts gratefully, cherish them and attend them in a responsible manner, share them in justice and love with others, and return them with increase to the Lord.

I would like to take that a step further and encourage you to give outside your comfort zone. Usually we give what is comfortable for us. Sure, we write a check each week to support the church, but could we dig a little deeper into our purses, pockets, and wallets. Could we give a little more generously to our parish, the church outside our parish (Annual Catholic Appeal of our Diocese), the world church, or any other charity of our choice?

This goes for time as well. Try to spend just a little more time reaching out to someone. It can be in a formal program, or it can just be by following the Corporal Works of Mercy (visit the sick, clothe the naked, feed the hungry…) Offer to pick up the newspaper or the mail for your neighbor who doesn’t get around well. How about picking up a loaf of bread for that neighbor next time you go to the store?

The Lenten Season would be an appropriate time to mentally review the promises you made with God in your Covenant. Did you resolve to add just a few minutes a day to your prayer time? (Or establish a prayer time.) Pray for a deeper understanding of the Stewardship Way of Life.

Were you planning to take advantage of more Adult Education opportunities? Read Catholic books and literature? Hopefully you picked up a copy of Rediscover Catholicism a few months ago and have begun to read the book.

The parish made the book available to you to help in your Faith Journey and to help make your relationship with God stronger. You are encouraged to attend the Book Study (whether or not you have read the book) that will begin on Sunday night, March 1. (We need an RSVP to make dinner arrangements.)

Whatever you choose to do to observe Lent this year, don’t let it slip by unnoticed. Step outside your comfort zone and return your gifts to God with increase.

It’s Not Too Late to Commit to a Life in Jesus Christ

January is traditionally the time for New Year’s resolutions. It’s an ideal time to take stock, reassess and recommit to a life lived for and in Jesus Christ. Here are a few suggestions for the important areas of our faith life:

Stewardship of Prayer: Nothing is more important than cultivating a closer, deeper relationship with God. Make a new commitment to a time each day to listen to God’s voice.

Stewardship of Family: How often in our busy lives does time with family get neglected? Resolve to find a special time with each family member each week. Make sure that family meals are celebrated frequently. Plan a special family outing once or twice a month, and go to Mass together. Resolve that when your spouse or child speak, you will look at them and truly listen.

Stewardship of Health: Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Without good health, we lack the energy to serve the Lord well. Resolve to make that doctor or dentist appointment. Make one healthy change in your eating habits. Add a few minutes of extra exercise to each day’s routine.

Stewardship of Possessions: Want less. Live more simply. Do you own your possessions, or do they own you? Challenge yourself to sacrifice something you like but that you know another person needs more than you.

Stewardship of Mind: Resolve to read something regularly that enhances your faith life. Resolve to learn more about your faith and especially Catholic social teaching.

Stewardship of the Parish Family: Offer your service to the liturgy or a ministry of your parish in the New Year. Enrich your parish and your parish experience by becoming involved.

Stewardship of Money: Take charge of your budget and your checkbook. Reprioritize your financial goals to ensure that the Lord is coming first in the expenditure of your wealth. Plan your spending and don’t spend reactively or impulsively.

Stewardship of Work: Do your best at your chosen profession. Be honest and faithful. Resolve to find a class or other forum that will strengthen your knowledge and expertise. Bring a prayerful attitude to your job.

Stewardship of Neighbor: Be aware of those around you, whether it be your co-workers, fellow parishioners, neighbors, restaurant workers or store employees. Everyone needs a smile and Christian kindness.

Stewardship of the Poor: Resolve to interact with the poor in some specific way this year. Resolve to choose a time and place to minister to the poor in some way. Bring them into your prayer life as well.