We are at the doorsteps of Holy Week where we
remember Christ’s passion. Jesus humbled himself and
let go of everything, emptying himself for us. During
this time of Lent, how have we joined the Lord? Has our
prayer, penitential practices and almsgiving moved us
to humble ourselves before the Lord? Have we let go of
things that keep us from being authentic stewards for
Christ Jesus? How have we “emptied” ourselves so that
when we do approach the table of the Lord, we can be
nourished by His body and blood? As disciples of the
Lord Jesus and stewards of His gift of faith, it is time to
evaluate our lives under the cross.
Jesus called to his friend from the dead, “Lazarus, come
out!” It is the same call our Lord makes to us unceasingly:
“Come out!” Jesus calls us from our tomb of doubt and
unbelief, from the darkness of our fear and anxieties; from
the depths of our weaknesses and lack of hope. Christian
stewards pray for an open heart so that they may hear the
voice of the Lord, heed the continuous call to come away
from their former way of living and reprioritize their lives
in the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Do we believe
Christ has the power to transform our lives? Do we take
time to listen for his call?
Saint Patrick, the “apostle to Ireland,” is one of the world’s most famous and
celebrated saints. His missionary zeal arguably matched that of Saint Paul,
whose missionary activities, though oftentimes a severe struggle, remained
in the territories governed by Roman law. Saint Patrick, however, was the
first recorded Christian missionary to evangelize beyond the bounds of
Roman rule and into the darkness of what was then considered the end of
“Patricius” was born in Roman Britain around 385. His father was a
public official and church deacon. He was kidnapped by Irish slave traders
while in his mid-teens and forced into slavery; herding sheep on remote
Irish hillsides under harsh conditions. Spending most of his time in solitude,
he grew to trust in God and embrace a life of prayer. After six years, he
made a dangerous and harrowing escape over land and sea that finally
resulted in a return to his parents. They found him, at age 22, a serious
visionary who sought holiness and friendship with Christ.
Patrick entered the priesthood, and in time, was sent to evangelize the
Irish. He was appointed the bishop of Ireland in 435 and established his see
at Armagh in the north.
The Irish were known to be wild, unrestrained and corrupt. But
Patrick’s success in making converts to Christianity was nothing less than
astonishing, even to him. He traveled to most parts of Ireland, winning
the hearts of the Celtic people by his deep faith, humility, simplicity and
pastoral care. He took great measures to incorporate pagan rituals into
his teachings on Christianity. Since the ancient Celts honored their gods
with fire, Patrick used bonfires to celebrate Easter; and he placed the sun,
a powerful Celtic symbol, around the Christian cross to create the now
familiar Celtic cross.
Patrick’s profound witness to the Gospel eventually brought an end to
human sacrifices, trafficking of women, and slavery in general. He is the
first person in recorded history to publicly oppose slavery; a protest that
would not be taken up again for another millennium.
His writings reveal a keen understanding of stewardship as well. He
wrote that whatever good he had been able to accomplish on behalf of the
Lord, in his “meager, unlearned, and sinful state … has been a gift from God.”
Over the centuries, Irish immigrants would spread their devotion to Saint
Patrick as they established the Catholic faith around the world. He is thought
to have died on March 17, 461, the date which became his feast day.
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).
A central part of our faith is the practice of almsgiving. It is a practice
described in our Catholic Catechism thusly:
The foundational call of Christians to charity is a frequent theme of the
Gospels. During Lent, we are asked to focus more intently on “almsgiving,”
which means donating money or goods to the poor and performing other acts
of charity. As one of the three pillars of Lenten practice, almsgiving is “a witness
to fraternal charity” and “a work of justice pleasing to God.” (Catechism of the
Catholic Church, no. 2462).
To be a Christian steward includes having compassion towards others,
especially the most vulnerable in our society. Almsgiving is an act where we
imitate the love and mercy that God has for these people by providing for their
most basic and fundamental needs.
Almsgiving is also 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” (Matthew 5:3).
Almsgiving opens our hearts to the realization that God blesses us through
those we serve. 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 in ways we cannot even imagine.
Are you looking for ideas to help
you with your Lenten experience?
Don’t worry, you have the end of
February, the month of March and
the beginning of April to be a good
steward of the gift of Lent and the
Here are 20 ideas to
fill the days of Lent and the beginning
of the Easter season.
1. Attempt a more intentional prayer
life – start a habit in the morning and
before bedtime. Also, embrace periods
of silence each day.
2. Read a book on Christian spirituality,
one that will enrich your spiritual
journey. Also consider keeping a
journal during Lent to reflect on your
spiritual highs and lows.
3. Attend a weekday Mass.
4. Pray the rosary.
5. Make a point of experiencing
the sacrament of reconciliation at
the beginning and end of Lent at
6. Give up meat on Fridays but
don’t substitute lobster. Make fasting
something that is truly sacrificial.
7. Resolve to stop engaging in rumors,
gossip, and negative chatter that
8. Begin and end each week with an
e-mail thanking someone for all that
9. Be sure to say grace at any restaurant
you frequent (don’t dodge making the
Sign of the Cross either).
10. Reconcile with someone you’ve hurt
or aren’t speaking to.
11. Invite someone who’s been away
from the church to attend Mass with you.
12. Make a gift to a charitable cause.
Make it a sacrificial gift, not what’s
13. Thank a bishop, priest or member
of a religious congregation for their
public witness. Invite them out for coffee
or a meal.
14. Visit someone who’s alone.
15. Reflect on the most pressing
challenges confronting our Church and
pray for a Spirit-filled response.
16. Pray the Stations of the Cross.
17. Find out if there is a person
participating in your parish’s
RCIA program and send a note of
18. Discover the ways your diocese is
ministering to the poor and see how you
19. Attend your parish’s Good Friday
20. Invite someone you know will be
alone to Easter Sunday dinner.
Jesus’ longest-recorded conversation with anyone is the
one he has with the Samaritan woman at the well. She
discovers she can be honest with Jesus and goes and tells
others about him. She gives witness. She’s not the most
certain, thorough or even convincing witness. But her
witness is enough. It is inviting, humble, non-judgmental
and sincere. What is the quality of our witness? How do
our words and actions give daily testimony on behalf of
Christ? During this season of Lent, how might we do a
better job at proclaiming the risen Lord in word and deed?