ALMSGIVING – An Important Lenten Exercise

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.