Almsgiving: Building up our treasures for the Heavens

“For God so loved the world he gave his only son.” (Jn 3:16) Talk about giving; how much more could God have provided us? Thank God for loving us so much. Thank God for all the beautiful opportunities we have every moment to serve Him through one another. Thank God for the personal encounter with Christ in these moments. Thank God for everyone, no matter our “social status.” Thank God for the opportunity to serve the poor, not just people financially but also the poor of spirit, mind, body, and soul.
Jesus, the Servants of Servants, came to serve, not be served. In Mathew's Gospel, we learn that Jesus calls us to be people of action. “For I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you welcomed me… Amen, I say to you what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.” (Matt 25:35-45) 
Throughout the Gospels, we hear stories about Jesus directing his disciples to take little with them and ask for food and shelter along their journey. One way we could interpret the message is for the disciples to humble themselves to understand better the necessity of depending on one another and the call for action from those we encounter who are in need. 
Almsgiving frequently is understood to be an act of giving money or food. An almsgiving is an act of charity for one another. Through our Baptismal call of Priest, Prophet, and King, we are called to give, help, and serve. As a King, wouldn’t you want and need to take care of your people?  Thank God for giving us these extraordinary responsibilities.  But it takes action “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (Js 2:14)
During Lent, we have a beautiful opportunity to focus on encountering Jesus by sacrificially giving financial, physical, or emotional support to those who need our assistance.  It is a time for us to develop further by sacrificing our time, talents, and treasures in service to our Lord and Savior! 
In today's world, our communities and others desperately need financial and physical help. One can’t ignore the needs of others because of self-judgment; this is a time to see for ourselves how giving to others comes back tenfold or hundred or morefold. Every encounter with someone in need has produced more fruit than I can ever provide. Of course, that is not why we serve; it is just our extraordinary rewards when we enter into that relationship with Jesus. Thank you, Jesus, for the remarkable opportunity to serve, but most of all, for giving your all, even death on the cross.  
Encountering the poor means encountering Jesus. Being amongst the poor and serving here in our Diocese, neighboring states, and abroad has been a humbling experience.  Listening to their stories, but most importantly, looking into their eyes stirs many emotions and questions – why, what do we do, how do we do it and what happens when we leave? 
First, why? Because we have been called to give our time, talents, and treasure. What we do is love them and be present when we have an encounter. How we help depends on what is needed and what we are called to do. When we leave, some issues may be resolved, but more often, they will not. That’s why we are ALL called to serve. Jesus tells us we will always have the poor. So many opportunities exist to be a great almsgiver. It is each person’s choice to decide if and what we will give.  
We all have our own lives and responsibilities to our families and ourselves. However, finding the time and resources to give needs to be sacrificed for those in need, as Jesus has directed us. Almsgiving is not about giving a few dollars or a few minutes, it is about a true sacrifice, a time for a personal encounter with the person in need through our Lord and Savior.  What a beautiful opportunity to unite ourselves with Christ, what a Eucharistic moment. Please consider entering into this incredible opportunity, to be in union with our Lord during Lent and give sacrificially to those in need. 

Keith Burke is the service/outreach, parish life coordinator at St. John the Evangelist in St. John.