You might have heard of Fr. Richard Frechette. He is a Passionist priest who works in Haiti. In fact, he not only serves the pastoral needs of the people in the capital city, he also serves their physical needs as a medical doctor. One of his routines is to walk the dirty lanes around the medical clinic. He looks for dead babies that have been pitched away. Fr. Richard believes that everyone should have a proper burial and a decent funeral in which the deceased is offered back to God. I thought of Fr. Richard when I read about Tobit leaving his bride to bury a fellow-Jew found lying murdered on the street. Tobit did many good deeds.
Raphael, Tobit’s companion, declares, “Prayer and fasting are good, but better than either is almsgiving.” Jesus does encourage us to pray and fast. To a greater degree, he stresses that we are to do good to others. He censures the Scribes for going around in long robles (the poor cannot afford fine clothing), accepting greetings in the marketplaces (the poor are unnoticed or ignored), and for taking places of honor at banquets (the poor are in the kitchen doing the grueling, sweaty work of preparing the dinner). At that point, Jesus draws the attention of his disciples away from the Scribes and to the widow at the temple as an example of generosity. She “contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.” She emptied herself, perhaps a reference to “Jesus emptied himself” (Philippians 2:7) and gave away his life, out of love for his Father and for us. This is the ultimate example of almsgiving, not simply giving money or clothes but our very life. The world of the Scribes was centered on themselves; the world of Jesus was centered on others and doing good to them.
Doing good, almsgiving, expresses our gratitude for all that God has given us. Almsgiving is a realization that it is not simply “me and God”. I am a member of a community of faith. I am called to be a responsible steward with an attitude of generosity to better the lives of my neighbors in need.
Holy Cross Province begins our 34th Provincial Chapter on June 10. During the Chapter directions for the next four years will be decided and a new Provincial and Council will be elected. Please keep us in your prayers from June 10-17.
Fr. Don Webber, C.P., is Provincial Superior of Holy Cross Province and resides in Chicago.