Answering the call to almsgiving

Catholic News Service

“The three pillars of Lent — almsgiving, fasting and prayer — are intertwined very closely together,” said Father Brian Guerrini of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, parochial vicar of Queen of Peace Parish in Harlingen. “The whole sense of sacrifice, almsgiving, prayer and fasting, it is holistic in that it nourishes the mind, body and spirit.”

Throughout Scripture, we find ample evidence of God calling us to give alms to the poor.

“Giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity,” says the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “It is also a work of justice pleasing to God” (No. 2447).

In this Lenten season, when almsgiving is one of the three pillars we are invited to practice, we are, at the very least, called to be more mindful of the poor in our midst and to respond as generously as possible.

“A lot of times, people think almsgiving is giving money, but it’s not giving money per se,” Father Guerrini said. “It is giving of your time, of your talents. It is that sense of freely giving what you have without expecting anything in return.

“To me, almsgiving is about sharing and sacrifice.”

Father Guerrini gave an example of sharing and sacrifice. He recalled one year, some religious sisters from his community fasted on Fridays during Lent and gave the money they would have spent on food to the poor.

“Everyone, without exception – young or old, rich or poor, religious or laity, has something to give,” Father Guerrini said. “Everyone can give in some way for the well-being of another.”

Pope Francis spoke of almsgiving and its relationship to mercy at a jubilee audience on April 9, 2016.

“Almsgiving must carry with it all the richness of mercy,” since the word “alms” derives from the Greek word meaning “mercy,” the Holy Father said.

The Bible repeatedly shows the responsibility of God’s people to give attention to “the needy, the widow, the stranger, the sojourner, the orphan.”

God wants his children to “watch over these brothers and sisters,” the pope said, as they are “at the very center of the message: to praise God through sacrifice and to praise God through almsgiving.” Giving alms, then, becomes a joyful form of worship.

Pope Francis also reminded his audience not to judge others when giving alms. “How many people justify their not giving alms by saying: ‘What kind of person is this? If I give him something perhaps he will go buy wine to get drunk.’”

Do not just give money and hurry away, the pope said, but look at the face of the person asking for help. “At the same time” the pope added, “we must distinguish between the poor and various forms of begging that do not render a good service to the truly poor.”

Above all, almsgiving “is a gesture of love that is directed at those we meet,” the pope concluded.

With information from The Valley Catholic

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