Lenten alms

I happened on this quote the other day from St. Don Bosco:

An effective but often neglected means of gaining Paradise is almsgiving. By almsgiving I mean any work of mercy exercised toward one’s neighbor for the love of God.

It reminded me of a comment a colleague of mine here at the Seminary made to me last Fall, that I quoted before on this blog:

If one were to do a cursory read of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke), one would get the impression that we are saved by giving alms.

The vocation of human beings, in the Hebrew biblical worldview, is to return the created world back to God as a sacrificial offering of thanksgiving, and the prime conduit of that “return” is the hand of the beggar. We are, in effect, priests of mercy who ensure creation conspires to the good of all.

{If you are skeptical on this account of Jewish thinking on the topic, read Gary Anderson’s article in First Things (click here) that rocked my world first time I read it.}

In this sense, Jesus’ final judgment parable in Matthew 25:31-46 is simply the Messiah’s “Amen” at the end of the Hebrew Bible.

So this Lent, return your corner of the universe to God through the hands of those around you in need of mercy. When you die, they will await you with hands full…

2 comments on “Lenten alms

  1. Amanda says:

    A wise priest once told me the we, as mothers (and fathers) of small children, are giving alms daily! We are clothing the naked (literally), we are feeding the hungry and we are giving to the needy among us. Let us not forget that our neighbor does indeed come in many shapes and sizes =) Great reminder for me to take the time to feed, clothe and tend to in love and with great patience.

    • Excellent point! — that it is both-and, that our charity begins at home and only then radiates (as a family) out to the naked family of humanity in our reach. And I find that when children link your own bodily care for them with care for other bodies in the world, it is more transformative than any mere-word pedagogy. Thank you!!

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