Lent Alphabet (A)

ALMSGIVING

But when you give alms, your left hand must not know what your right is doing; your ALMSGIVING must be secret, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.

Lent begins in a potentially re-assuring place by offering us the three ancient spiritual tools of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Our Biblical ancestors knew these tools well. Faithfulness to the Torah consisted in making prayer, fasting and almsgiving the roots from which all else could grow. It was a way of life.

It’s easy to look at these three tools as Lent begins and to use them as a measuring stick. But what if we saw Lent not as a time to feel guilty, but more as an opportunity for deepening what is already embedded in our lives?

Matthew’s handling of these traditional practices moves our attention to our hearts and our motivations. This is where the real work of Lent begins. That Matthew uses the word secret ‘six’ times in this passage speaks to me of the inner work that God calls me to do. The invitation to almsgiving turns my attention from my own needs to the needs of others. We naturally think in terms of giving money or food to those in need. In many ways time is as precious a commodity as food or money. You may be in a position to give all three.

How is God calling you to give alms this Lent?

(Matthew 6:1-6. 16-18, Ash Wednesday)