The Lord spoke to Moses; he said: ‘Speak to the whole community of the sons of Israel and say to them:
‘“Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.
‘“You must not steal nor deal deceitfully or fraudulently with your neighbour. You must not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God. I am the Lord. You must not exploit or rob your neighbour. You must not keep back the labourer’s wage until next morning.
You must not curse the dumb, nor put an obstacle in the blind man’s way, but you must fear your God. I am the Lord.
‘“You must not be guilty of unjust verdicts. You must neither be partial to the little man nor overawed by the great; you must pass judgement on your neighbour according to justice. You must not slander your own people, and you must not jeopardise your neighbour’s life. I am the Lord. You must not bear hatred for your brother in your heart. You must openly tell him, your neighbour, of his offence; this way you will not take a sin upon yourself. You must not exact vengeance, nor must you bear a grudge against the children of your people. You must love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.”’
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory. All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate men one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.
‘Then the King will say to those on his right hand, “Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.” Then the virtuous will say to him in reply, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome; naked and clothe you; sick or in prison and go to see you?” And the King will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”
‘Next he will say to those on his left hand, “Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you never gave me food; I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink; I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, naked and you never clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me.” Then it will be their turn to ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or naked, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help?” Then he will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.”
‘And they will go away to eternal punishment, and the virtuous to eternal life.’
“Amen, I say to you, whatever you did to one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
Today we turn to charity, one of the three pillars of Lent – the other two being prayer and fasting. More often than not, when one speaks of charity, what comes to mind is a donation of cash or kind. There is nothing wrong with that. But what is charity? Merriam-Webster lists one of the definitions of charity as the “love of humanity”. Indeed, in Old English, charity was defined as “Christian love of one’s fellows”.
Our definition of charity should not be limited to that of a monetary or material perspective. Those are indeed helpful, if you have it to spare, but if you don’t, you can still spare your time, abilities, or even spare your heart – words of encouragement, a listening ear, some time to catch up with someone you know who is troubled, even if just to hear them out or bring them a smile (or coffee). God gave us the resources that we have so that we may be able to share it with others who would also need them. An example can be found in Acts 3:6 where Peter heals a lame man who had begged him for some money at the temple. In reply, Peter says to the lame man, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” What we do have, given to us by God, we give to others in need – to help them, to enable them – regardless of how small we think our gifts may be. They do make a difference.
Giving of ourselves gives us a connection to the receiver and indirectly, to God Himself. Do you recall a time when you helped someone and brought joy to that person — did you feel your heart lift as well? Did not that person’s happiness bring you happiness as well? When we can do something for someone, we immerse ourselves into their situation and see for ourselves and understand their need. And if we can transform our giving into joy for them and see that joy for ourselves, we are repaid for our acts of kindness and generosity. When we give, we may not always have the recipient in our physical sight, but if we can imagine giving directly to God, would that not change our perspective on giving? We are all God’s creatures and God cares for each and everyone of us. If we care for each other, we would be caring for God too.
Therefore, give with a happy heart, regardless of what it is that you are giving. Give with love. As it is said in 1 Corinthians 13:3: “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” God’s love abides in a cheerful giver, one whose heart is open to those in need. It is not enough to profess our faith in God with the words that we speak, but also in the deeds that we do. Faith without works is dead.
This Lenten period, as we contemplate our acts of charity and almsgiving, let us keep in mind the words of Jesus, that “It is more blessed to give than to receive”. (Acts 20:35).
(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)
Prayer: Lord, we pray for an open heart to recognize those that need a helping hand, our helping hand. May we find ways to be useful and may we give with a cheerful and discerning heart.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for giving us the resources and gifts that we have that we may be able to help those who are in need. May we keep them in our prayers, not just this Lenten period, but always.