Thursday, March 10, 2011

Almsgiving can have the fragrance of Spring

As we begin our Lenten journey the Church reminds us that the way of grace is paved with prayer, fasting and almsgiving. I have often been puzzled by the meaning of “almsgiving”. For a long time I thought it was giving money to someone or some cause. Well, we are invited to give to the poor and needy but it is more than money. I was taken with the writing of St. Leo the Great today in the Office of Readings.

There is no more profitable practice as a companion to holy and spiritual fasting than that of almsgiving. This embraces under the single name of mercy many excellent works of devotion, so that the good intentions of all the faithful may be of equal value, even where their means are not. The love that we owe both God and man is always free from any obstacle that would prevent us from having a good intention. The angels sang: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth. The person who shows love and compassion to those in any kind of affliction is blessed, not only with the virtue of good will but also with the gift of peace.

The works of mercy are innumerable. Their very variety brings this advantage to those who are true Christians, that in the matter of almsgiving not only the rich and affluent but also those of average means and the poor are able to play their part. Those who are unequal in their capacity to give can be equal in the love within their hearts.

As a Sister a live by the vow of poverty so I have no money of my own. But I do have love in my heart and I can give that away. We all can. We can give our "alms" to the elderly lady in our neighborhood by buying a few extra things for her at the supermarket when we shop. We can visit or send a card to our friend or acquaintance who is suffering some illness like cancer. We could even drop by with a bouquet of spring flowers or some homemade cookies. We can reach out to one of our children's friends whose parents are going through a divorce. Believe me, that child is suffering. Almsgiving does mean sacrificing to donate to a worthy cause but it also means not being too busy to give to the spiritually poor and needy around us. With no money in my pocket, I can do that. I think you probably can too!

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