Every Lent we are invited to the three traditional practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Of the three almsgiving seems to be the overlooked discipline. When I did a search in an online database for each of the three terms associated with Lent, prayer got 557 results, fasting 152 and almsgiving a mere 28.
But giving alms - defined as donating money or goods to those in need - has always been practiced in the church from the earliest days. In the early Church, where the preferential love for the poor was universally acknowledged, communities made sure that all members had what they needed. Helping your neighbor was simply what was done.
There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need (Acts 4:34-35).
As Christians we are called to enter into God’s caring for the world. Almsgiving, is “a way we join in the generosity of God” and show the love of God for all. It means making the needs of others our own.
The purpose of the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving is to grow in our friendship with God. If God’s deepest longing is for the well-being of the world, then we will want what God wants for the sake of our friendship with God. We will give not only of our finances but also of our time and our very selves out of friendship for God. (Roberta C. Bondi)
Furthermore, even though you and I may never know the person(s) who will benefit from our almsgiving, when we pray or give alms to contribute to the wellbeing of others in the world, our actions, our offerings on their behalf join us with them in God. Almsgiving is a form of prayer and as Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki writes:
We become one with those for whom we pray within God’s own being, for we meet in God. . . Praying for another’s well being allows God to weave us into that other’s well-being. In this manner we become part of those for whom we pray and they become a part of us.
~ In God’s Presence: Theological Reflections on Prayer
This Sunday, on the third Sunday of Lent, we will take up a collection for the needs of the community. You can designate your gift simply “Lent Almsgiving.” The proceeds from the collection will be equally divided and go to The North Shore Lookout Shelter and the needs of Ukrainian newcomer women experiencing financial hardship.
If you cannot join us this Sunday, you can make a donation by e-transfer to email@example.com and type in "Lent Almsgiving" in the online note box.
You can also donate through our Canada Helps account to our General Fund or English - Ukrainian Conversation group and include "Lent Almsgiving" in the private note box provided - https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/42524?v2=true
Image: Langley, Walter. Waif, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=57180 [retrieved March 9, 2023]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Walter_Langley_-_The_Waif_1889.jpg.