March 31, 2015: Divine Mercy Wk 8 Almsgiving
One of the three pillars of Lenten practice is almsgiving, which means donating money or goods to the poor and performing other acts of charity. The Catechism calls it "a witness to fraternal charity" and "a work of justice pleasing to God." St. Therese of Lisieux in her diary recounts a time when she, as a child, witnessed her father showing great reverence to the least admirable of God's family. One time at a train station, her father spotted a poor epileptic stranded in the railway station. In addition to giving him money, he begged alms in his own hat from the passer-by until the man had enough money for a ticket home. Do our children or grandchildren ever catch us giving alms to the poor, thereby learning an important life lesson?
Mother Teresa often said, "I ask you one thing: do not tire of giving, but do not give your leftovers. Give until it hurts, until you feel the pain." Do you remember the scene in the gospel where in the temple, Jesus watched various people putting money into the treasury? He saw many put in large sums, then he spotted a poor widow who put in two copper coins. He then said to his disciples, "I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For they all contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living" (Mk 12:41) The lesson here is that it's not how much we give but rather how much it costs us to give. Pope Francis said this about almsgiving. "Dear brothers and sisters, let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt."
So how do we practice true almsgiving? A question to ask ourselves is, "What can I give up in order to help and enrich others by my own poverty?" In true almsgiving, there's a direct correlation between what we give up and what we give. Both are important. If we're truly giving up, not from our surplus but from what costs us, then almsgiving becomes real for us. We feel it, and then, we receive the blessing.
A practical suggestion is setting up a personal mercy fund. Are we tempted to buy yet another outfit we may not need in our already packed closet? Set that money aside. Do we really need to go out to drink $4 coffee at a coffee house when we can brew it at home for far less? Set that money aside. Mercy fund becomes our piggy bank where we put all the proceeds from our sacrifices that will fund our works of mercy. When time comes, you can put that money toward projects such as our Easter Basket, Food Pantry, or Thanksgiving Basket. See how your lives will transform when you begin to give from your sacrifice.
-Fr Paul Yi