The second part of our Lenten discipline is almsgiving. Giving alms is the foundational call of Christians to charity; it is a frequent theme of the Gospels. According to the U.S.C.C.B., during Lent, we are asked to focus more intently on “almsgiving,” which means donating money or goods to the poor and performing other acts of charity. As one of the three pillars of Lenten practice, almsgiving is “a witness to fraternal charity” and “a work of justice pleasing to God.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2462). In his Message for Lent 2015. . . Pope Francis asks us to reach out to those in need: “…we can help by acts of charity, reaching out to both those near and far through the Church’s many charitable organizations. Lent is a favorable time for showing this concern for others by small yet concrete signs of our belonging to the one human family.”
There are so many ways to give alms, to support the poor or those in great need. Each year we hand out Catholic Relief Services “Operation Rice Bowl Packets” to help people in great need. This year the project focuses on the countries of Niger, Lebanon, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Diocese of Albany in New York. Life in Niger is ruled by the seasons, the dry season, the hot season, the rainy season and the hungry season, when food supplies run out and people face difficult choices between feeding their children and basic needs. Catholic Relief Services helped people dig reservoirs to capture precious water for their crops.
Right Now Lebanon, Syria is devastated by war and strife. Many people have fled their homes and find themselves refugees, without jobs and respectable ways to take care of their children. Providing food vouchers helps families meet their immediate needs while they pray and work for peace. Hamuli Kahati in the Congo lost his banana trees to a disease. CRS helped to train the farmers on how to rid their trees of this disease, healthy trees bring in revenue so that he can feed his family.
In the Diocese of Albany residents have transformed an abandoned lot into a garden producing fresh vegetables and produce for low income people bringing hope and new life to the neighborhood. Catholic Relief Services is one agency that tries in these ways and many more to alleviate poverty through the money collected through Operation Rice Bowl. There are countless other ways that we can feed the hungry, empower the powerless, and make a difference in many people’s lives. If you have not picked up an Operation Rice Bowl packet, it’s not too late, pick up one today. And/or pick your initiative that assists the poor and improves their lives. It is as much a blessing to give as it is to receive.
Blessings – Father Larry