We are entering into a season of Lent; a time for us to contemplate what God really did for us on the Cross. A time that calls for the conversion of our hearts so that we can be reconciled to God. It begins on Ash Wednesday, a day wherein we are being reminded that we have sinned and our sinfulness veers us away from God.
How can we reconcile ourselves to God this Lent?
Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are all necessary for Lent. It help us open the door of our hearts a little wider and understands our Lord a little deeper, so when Good Friday and Easter Sunday come, we can fully receive the overflowing graces that God longs us to receive.
Why are these things necessary?
Prayer deepens our relationship with God. It is our communication line with Jesus Christ who came down from Heaven only to be crucified on the cross so He can save us.
Fasting sanctifies us by denying ourselves from the unnecessary things in life so we can clearly hear the voice of God. It also strengthens our “spiritual muscles” through disciplining ourselves so when temptations come, we have already learned how to resist our selfish desires.
Both prayer and fasting bring us to what Lent is all about – conversion of our hearts and returning to God.
But why do we still need almsgiving when we can just pray and fast?
Almsgiving is a combination of prayer and fasting. It is a form of prayer because it strengthens our relationship with Him by giving something to God through other people. Thus, our act of giving and helping other people are not mere philanthropy. We give because we value and care those who our dear to God – the poor and the needy. Almsgiving is a form of fasting because it demands sacrificial giving. Almsgiving is not giving what is our surplus – what is convenient for us. True almsgiving is denying ourselves of something so we can thoughtfully give to others.
Even Jesus reminded us that almsgiving is necessary in our Christian life when He said
“when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Mt 6:2-3).
WHEN you give alms. He did not say IF you give alms, He gave emphasis on giving alms by using WHEN. Thus, almsgiving, like fasting and prayer is non-negotiable in walking our faith.
When we give alms, we grow to become like Christ who was rich but became poor for our sake. He gave up us His life and sacrificed so we can be saved from our sins. Almsgiving is a call for each one of us, to live like Christ and to die to oneself like Christ.
We give alms not to free ourselves from guilt, as if we need to pay for the comforts we are experiencing. We benefit from almsgiving through growing in virtue, thus we grow in holiness.
We grow in virtue of prudence by making right choices in our spending, becoming more aware of the things that we need and want, and know the difference of the two. It sharpens our judgment, helping us to realize that it is not prudent to buy another pair of shoes when you already have a dozen!
We grow in virtue of temperance by being conscious in our indulgence. Making ourselves more aware of the right limits in buying things; may it be food, services, gadget, clothes, etc. With this, we come to realize that giving up buying a cup of coffee from our favorite coffee shops can do so much if we give it to those who are in need – it can give food to the hungry, can even send a child to school!
We grow in justice, helping us to recognize that all human life is valuable and the needs of other people matter. Our acts of charity will become well-thought and planned because we consciously consider the need of those who we want to help.
We grow in virtue of generosity, helping us to recognize how the Lord abundantly blessed us and He gave us the means to share His love to others. When we cheerfully give, we come to recognize that though we may not have much but we still have something to give to those who are in need.
How can we truly respond to God’s invitation to give alms this Lent?
- Pray about it. Ask God’s guidance and grace on how He wants you to grow in holiness this Lent. If you may, you can even decide to abstain something that will help you save for your almsgiving. For example, decide to give up eating out for the whole week of Lent. Then, for every day that you have abstained from eating out, save $5 or whatever is prudent and according to your means.
- Know your resources and be aware of your wants and your needs. Ask yourself this question, “how can I be a cheerful giver?”. When you give, give what gives you peace and joy not what is convenient nor comfortable for you.
- Thoughtfully plan your almsgiving. Real almsgiving is not giving all the coins you have in your pocket to every beggar you meet on the street but real almsgiving should be planned and well thought of. It is an act of deliberately asking, “what are the needs of my brothers and sisters in Christ that I am capable to give?”
The hope with almsgiving is that, first, we will learn to be more trusting and dependent on God, having the confidence that God will provide our needs. Second, we become more generous and more sensitive to the needs of others. By doing so, we be more charitable and merciful like Christ.
We give alms NOT because we are obliged to do so. We give because it is who we are.
May Lent reminds us that God, out of His love for us, gave His only begotten Son and because of the Son’s great love shown on the cross, we are called to share His love to the lost, the least and the last by giving what they truly need.
This Ash Wednesday, may we truly reflect on how can we deepen our relationship with God through prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by ‘I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.’ – MOTHER TERESA