Why Do We Give?
Apr 9, 2019
I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood. Luke 21
Along with prayer and fasting, in Lent we have a third tool to build up our hearts for Easter: almsgiving. The Catholic encyclopedia defines almsgiving as a material favor done to assist the needy and prompted by charity. Throughout Scripture both in the Old and New Testament, we’re taught that charity and almsgiving are the heart of the Christian life. The psalmist teaches us in Psalm 40, “Blessed is he who considers the poor and the weak.”
Why are we blessed to give to the poor and the weak? Why do we give alms? Why are we called to acts of charity in general, and particularly during the season of Lent? Well, first of all, we do it because Jesus told us to do so.
But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. Matthew 6
Jesus doesn’t say to us, if you want to give alms. He says, when you give alms, meaning to do it, and with intention. Jesus wants us to give alms and do acts of charity and to help others because it takes us outside of ourselves. When we start looking too much at ourselves, which is what we do in our modern culture, we can become sad and even depressed. Why does this happen to us? Because as Christians, we’re not made for ourselves, but for others and especially for Christ Himself! We are to be Christ and to be Him for others. We see Jesus in our brothers and sisters, and especially those who are in need of some kind. It doesn’t have to be a material need. We know many around us who suffer more from spiritual and psychological sufferings. Saint Mother Teresa said it was easier to take care of others in the third world because you could give them a piece of bread and relieve their hunger. But in the west, souls were suffering from a deeper hunger that can’t be satisfied with bread alone. We can always pray for others in our charity, too. Prayer is never a waste of time.
We also give to others in almsgiving because we believe in the dignity of every human person. So, when we see a fellow human being in need, we want to help them because they are other Christs. We believe that each person is made in the image and likeness of God. It doesn’t matter how old or young, sick and healthy, rich or poor, atheist or believer, all are created by our Heavenly Father.
When we give alms, it inspires us to be more grateful for what we have been blessed with ourselves. We shouldn’t give out of guilt. When we see someone on the side of the road holding one of those signs asking for help, we don’t give out of guilt, but out of love. We always see people, and it seems more and more, many of them young people, standing at the highway exits asking for help. These signs always include asking God to bless us for our charity. You often hear you shouldn’t give to people asking for help on the side of the road. But my thought is you never know who that person might be. We can give for just these reasons: out of love for the person, recognizing the person as a child of God, and seeing the goodness and dignity in the person.
As we continue in our pilgrimage towards Easter, let us rededicate ourselves to our Lenten observances to be ready to welcome the risen Lord at Easter!
On a totally other note. You will see in the bulletin this week an announcement about a program called FORMED. FORMED is an online resource filled with an amazing collection of materials to help us grow deeper in the Faith and closer to Christ. Please keep this program in your prayers!
God bless you and your families,
Father Aidan, OSB