Almsgiving, Prayer, and Fasting: The Three Pillars of Lent
‘Give alms…Pray to your Father…Fast without a gloomy face…’ (Matthew 6:1-18)
Giving alms, Jesus teaches, means making the needs of others our own, especially the needy of our world. They are all around us: children and the old, the sick and the suffering, families and individuals, next-door neighbors and people in lands faraway.
Whatever we give should be something of ourselves, something that costs us. We will receive blessings from God in return.
What shall we give to the needy this lent? In deciding, decide generously. After all, before us is the great alms Jesus gave: “He loved us, and gave himself up for us.”
Pope Francis said in his Ash Wednesday homily, ‘Lent is also a privileged time for prayer’, He quoted St. Augustine, who described fasting and almsgiving as “the two wings of prayer,” because they are signs of humility and charity.
Prayer offers us all a very special opportunity to grow in our relationship with God and to deepen our commitment to a way of life, rooted in our baptism. In our busy world, Prayer provides us with an opportunity to reflect upon our patterns and sins. We should pray more deeply, experience sorrow for what we’ve done and failed to do, and to be generous to those in need.
Pope Francis says “Fasting makes sense if it really chips away at our security and, as a consequence, benefits someone else, if it helps us cultivate the style of the Good Samaritan, who bent down to his brother in need and took care of him.”
During Lent do you think God needs the chocolate, candy, and other trivial things we give up? No He needs us to look deep within ourselves and reflect. He wants our hearts.
So when you fast, do not proclaim it, do not look hard done by, smile and go about your day happy. We are told this in the Bible.
In fact he wants us to stop our obsession with the ME and start thinking about what truly matters in life.
What will you do to love Him more and open yourself more to His Love?
Thoughts from Pope Francis
“Where do I find hope? In the poor Jesus, Jesus who made himself poor for us? And of poverty. Poverty calls us to sow hope. This seems a bit difficult to understand. I remember Fr. Arrupe [Father General of the Jesuits from 1965-1983] wrote a letter to the Society’s centers for social research. At the end he said to us: ‘Look, you can’t speak of poverty without having experience with the poor.’ You can’t speak of poverty in the abstract: that doesn’t exist. Poverty is the flesh of the poor Jesus, in that child who is hungry, in the one who is sick, in those unjust social structures. Go forward; look there upon the flesh of Jesus. But don’t let well being rob you of hope, that spirit of well being that, in the end, leads you to becoming a nothing in life. Young persons should bet on their high ideals, that’s my advice. But where do I find hope? In the flesh of Jesus who suffers and in true poverty. There is a connection between the two.”
-Pope Francis, Question and answer session with Jesuit School students (June 7, 2013)