Laudetur Jesus Christus!
Gelobt sei Jesus Christus!
Praised be Jesus Christ!
Perhaps a difficult practice we all suffer from is the practice of alms giving. There are certainly different interpretations or understandings of what this means. One example is should we give money to someone who asks for it on the streets or not. People of good will have different ideas on this and I don’t presume to settle the dispute in this column.
Almsgiving is an important spiritual practice, one recommended by Our Lord Himself, for several important reasons. First of all, everything that we have has been given to us. Properly speaking, nothing we have is ours. We have been given stewardship of the earth, we have not been given ownership. Ownership remains totally and completely the Lord’s. This is why we are called to be generous with what we have, because it is ultimately God’s, who was generous enough to share it with us in the first place.
Secondly, we have been called to find Chris within the poor themselves. I have heard many times that this can be difficult, especially when some have been given over to drugs and destitution. However, this can be no reason to not find Christ within them. Before Christ, poverty was seen as a curse. It was believed that if you are poor, it surely had to be because of some sin. This theology cannot be reconciled with Christian theology because Christ Himself was poor. Christ, He who knew no sin, accepted the conditions of sin and lived in poverty. Because of this, Christ forever sanctified poverty and can be found in its midst. This in no way glamorizes poverty, but tell us that it is a place where we can find Christ because He Himself knew poverty, just as He knew suffering.
It is a dangerous situation for Christians when we become so possessive of our possessions. It is a dangerous and perilous place to put our souls. We fail to recognize the Divine possession of the world, and we begin to fail to recognize Christ in the poor because our possession become so identified with our being. This is why the Church specifically calls us to almsgiving during Lent. To purify us of our unhealthy attachments. Reminding us of the sovereignty of God before and in the world.
This does not necessarily mean we must give all of our money or all of our possessions to those who ask for it on the streets. But it does mean that we are called to support good Catholics institutions who work with the poor, and go to meet Christ in the condition that He first found Himself in the world. During this Lent, strive to recognize the goodness that you have been given in your life. Recognize that the source of this is God and be prepared to offer it all back to Him. Have a blessed week ahead!