Giving Alms - Finding Ourselves
A family had gathered for a celebration, and one of the younger children, a little boy of three, had just received a cookie for dessert. He relished the sweet, parading through the kitchen with his prized possession. The host family had two playful pups. One of the dogs snatched the cookie! The outraged little boy cried out, “THAT WAS MINE!!!”
What do our possessions mean to us? We are called to be generous to those who lack what they need. What is mine? What is ours?
“For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.“ (Matthew 6:21)
This week we consider the Lenten practice of almsgiving. Providing for those in need is an ancient practice and the core meaning of social justice. In the Gospels, Jesus encouraged His listeners to give alms while being careful about their motives (Matthew 6:1-4). Lent lets us explore the heart of our generosity.
In the Gospel, Jesus once observed a poor widow who contributed to the temple treasury (Mark 12:41-44). Her poverty and behavior were in contrast with those who gave large sums from their surplus wealth. We wonder what she was thinking. Why would she give when she had so little?
Also, in Mark’s Gospel, a rich man asked Jesus about inheriting eternal life (Mark 10:17-25). Jesus replied with a list of commandments to which the man attested his obedience. Then, the story shifts a bit. “Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, ‘You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.” (Mark 10:21-22)
The widow is free to be generous despite her poverty. The rich man has lost his freedom; he has given himself to his possessions. He could not give to the poor. He could not follow Jesus. He goes away in sadness.
Earlier in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus posed a question: what advantage would there be for someone to gain everything and to lose their self? (Mark 8:36)
“How shall I make a return to the LORD for all the good he has done for me?” (Psalm 116:12)
In our families, we teach our children to grow to be generous people, people of compassion. We help them learn that following Jesus keeps us free to be the selves God calls us to be. Following Jesus gives us a way of seeing and responding to the needs of others.
- For Our Prayer: We can pray in thanksgiving to the Lord for our material well being. We can ask Him to grow our ability to see and hear the needs of others in our daily experience. We can ask for the grace to expand our generosity, increase our freedom, and bring us joy.
- A family Beatitudes poster. Using Matthew 5:3-12, family members could gather around a table and using whatever art materials available, design a poster featuring one or more of the Beatitudes. Color and creativity encouraged. The poster could be displayed in the home for the remaining days of Lent – a kind of prayerful reminder.
As a family, watch and discuss the short 7-minute video on Social Teaching from our entertaining hosts, Kai and Libby, of Catholic Central by Family Theater Productions, a media ministry of Holy Cross Family Ministries.
About John Dacey
John Dacey is a retired Catholic high school teacher. He has taught Scripture, Ethics, and Social Justice. He enjoys being in the company of family, reading in the field of spirituality, and gardening. John and his wife have been married for more than 40 years and have two children and four grandchildren.