Fr. Scott A. Haynes
The three works of Lent are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. We tend to focus on the first two of these. During Lent people will pray more, attend Mass more frequently, pray the Stations of the Cross and other devotions. We focus also on the fasting and abstinence from food. But what about almsgiving? The Book of Proverbs tells us:
“Honour your Lord with your possessions, and of your first fruits give unto the poor.”
As Catholics we especially put this verse into practice during Lent by giving alms. The word ‘alms’ comes from the Greek and means ‘mercy’ or ‘pity.’
Giving alms to the poor means showing mercy and pity on those in need. This can include giving monetary gifts to the Church, to charitable organizations, for example, who distribute bodily goods to the poor. It can include the gift of an Easter food basket for a needy family, but almsgiving can include many other things, such as other acts of mercy. Mercy is the medicine of sins; it redeems our souls from eternal death and keeps us from perdition. Mercy alone will be our guardian at the great Day of Judgment, but only if we show mercy to others in this life.
To give the gift of mercy to your brother is to give him alms, a gift most pleasing to the Lord. To have pity, in the spirit of loving-kindness, on someone who has offended you is most pleasing to Christ our God. And if we are to show mercy or pity to the poor, who are the poor around us? Those impoverished… This can be those without material goods, who need our help, but this can also mean those who need our prayers, our charity and our tender forgiveness.
Today give the gift of alms to your brother. Forgive your enemies and be merciful to your neighbor. If you show pity to them God your heavenly Father will be merciful to you. St Luke tells us:
“Give, and it shall be given unto you: good measure, pressed down and shaken together and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete, therewith it shall be measured to you again.”