We have been encouraged to keep the Lenten Season with the three practices of prayer, almsgiving and fasting. The practices come from the gospel we hear on Ash Wednesday which begins preparation for the celebration of the Easter Season. We are admonished to do the three humbly, not drawing attention to ourselves. The practice which intrigues me most is that of almsgiving. We hear of statistics that indicate that the number of poor continues to grow and that the chasm between rich and poor grows as well.
We are encouraged to give to the poor by filling the pantries of places like the Neighbor’s Place, the Salvation Army, and our own church pantries that assist those who do not have enough to eat. We bring canned goods to many drives sponsored by schools, churches and public entities. Photos appear in the newspaper indicating people’s generosity. I guess what bothers me is by our generosity which can be photographed, placed on face book or written about in the newspaper we are keeping people in poverty because the cause of poverty is not addressed. The young woman, I often see, when I buy gas, has indicated to me that she has not had a raise in six years. Unless we deal with the systemic reasons for poverty like lack of a living wage, adequate health care and good education, will we be left with providing food for the needy? Is this really what is meant by almsgiving?
Pope Francis challenges us in this way, “The times speak to us of such great poverty throughout the world, and this is a scandal. The poverty of the world is a scandal. In a world where there is such great wealth, so many resources for giving food to everyone, it is impossible to understand how there could be so many hungry children, so many children without education, so many poor people! Poverty today is a cry. We must all think about whether we can become a little poorer. This is something we must all do. How can I become a little poorer, to be more like Jesus, who was the poor Teacher?” Dialogue, June 7, 2013
Almsgiving might be more than just giving to the poor; it might be that we need to go with less so that others have more.