We have officially entered into the season of Lent. What a beautiful time of year this is! During lent we focus on prayer, penitence, almsgiving and self-denial. It’s a very holy time of year. One that we should all look forward to with great longing. It is the time of year where we begin to prepare for the single most amazing gift that we have been given by our Eternal Father… the gift of everlasting life through the sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ. Without this sacrifice we would be but poor lost souls.
Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. We go to Mass and receive ashes on our foreheads. These ashes are an outward sign of our penitence and of our desire to be forgiven of our sins, to strive to walk closer with God, and to become the Christians that Christ calls us to be. All that we do should help us realign ourselves with God and with His plan for our lives… that is, to become holy men and women of God. It seems like such a daunting task, doesn’t it?
Perhaps during Lent the first thing that comes to your mind is “What am I going to give up?” ” What am I going to sacrifice?” This is a natural first question since we are supposed to be focusing on giving up those things that separate us from Christ and His love. We are often so encumbered by “things” in our life that Lent provides the perfect opportunity to “give up” those things and draw deeper into prayer, bible study, spiritual reflection, and forgiveness. It is a beautiful aspect of Lent, but it is not enough.
During Lent we should be focusing on preparing ourselves for Christ’s greatest sacrifice and for our gift of eternal life. However, we can’t do this just through focusing on ourselves. If we do, we don’t do justice to Christ’s sacrifice for us. Instead, in addition to our self-denial, our digging deeper into our own faith and spirituality, we must focus on doing for others as well. If Christ sacrificed for us, shouldn’t we follow in his footsteps and sacrifice for others as well?
Many times we overlook the aspect of almsgiving when we think of Lent. What is almsgiving? Almsgiving is often times just viewed as how much you donate to your church at Offertory. However, almsgiving is much more than this. We are asked to not only give of our material means but of our time and talent as well. We are to give of ourselves in the best way we are able, for some this will be money, for others it will be our time. We are reminded that it isn’t so much how much we put in or give but in what manner we give it. We are to be like the widow in Luke 21:1-4 who put in just two coins for her offering… it wasn’t much, but it was a true sacrifice.
So how can we incorporate this idea into our Lenten season? How can we grow closer to Christ through almsgiving? As Blessed Mother Teresa says, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Our almsgiving doesn’t have to be elaborate or big but it should be sincere and from the heart. It should be a true sacrifice. What can we do to show Christ’s love to others?
- Offer a rosary for someone in need
- Give a sincere smile at someone who looks like they might be having a bad day
- Pray for someone who has hurt you
- Say thank you to someone who has done something that has made a difference in your life
- Offer to help someone to give them a break
- Commit to doing one act of kindness a day for someone random
- Go to Adoration and sit with our Lord
- Offer up your hurts, your struggles, your temptations, your worries for soneone you know who is struggling too
- Try to go to weekly Mass
- Turn off your t.v. or computer and spend time with your family or a friend instead
- Likewise, turn off your t.v. or computer and take the opportunity to pray
- Volunteer at a soup kitchen, a pregnancy resource center or the St. Vincent de Paul Society
- Stop to talk to the homeless person you see each day, if you can’t offer him a meal, offer him your prayers and a hug
- Donate to a women’s or homeless shelter
Almsgiving is so much more than just giving our money. While that aspect of almsgiving is so important, it is also important that we focus on the other aspect… giving of ourselves to others so that they may see Christ reflected in our eyes and our actions. As Christ says in Matthew 25:40 “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” As we give to others, we grow closer to Christ, our ultimate goal during the Lenten season.
Blessed Mother Teresa said, “The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace.” This Lenten season, as we focus on our journey to grow closer to Christ, let us remember that as we pray, fast, reflect and repent that all we do during this time should be a reflection of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice for us. One that will bring us eternal life and peace with Him.
What other ways can you give to others to show Christ’s love?