Sirach 3:17, 20, 28-29
Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24a
Luke 4:1, 7-14
The readings today emphasize what has traditionally been called almsgiving -the giving of alms to the poor and needy. They step by step lead us to the call to follow Christ in his great love for the poor and his mission to go about doing good to them and for them.
The first reading from Sirach opens by calling us to be humble, advising us to humble ourselves and listen carefully to the wise. Sirach ends with a proverb: "alms atone for sins."
The psalm invites us then to see and praise God’s glory. That glory is our heavenly Father’s great love and care for the poor, illustrated by each succeeding stanza. And we reply with the refrain, "God in your goodness, you have made a home for the poor."
The second reading, the letter to the Hebrews, moves us into the new testament. God in his goodness fulfilled his former covenant by sending us his son, who now mediates a new covenant which he made by shedding his own blood.
The Gospel then shows us that mediator in person, the model of this new covenant: Jesus, gentle and humble of heart, teaching us to think not about satisfying and rewarding ourselves here on earth, but to go out to "the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; – blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you."
In reflecting on these readings, I am constantly reminded of a saying of St. Teresa of Avila:
"Christ has no body now but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Your eyes are the eyes through which
Christ looks compassion into the world.
Yours are the feet with which Christ walks to do good.
Yours are the hands with which Christ blesses the world."
Christ, feeding me with himself in this Eucharist, sends me forth to be him – goes with me to make me him in his love and devotion to the poor, in his own giving of alms. How well do I really let him act and show himself through me – through my hands and feet, my giving and caring?
I am called back to the proverb of Sirach: "alms atone for sins."
Br. Peter A. Fitzpatrick, CFX, a Xaverian Brother, is a Passionist Associate at Ryken House, across the creek from the Passionist Monastery, in Louisville, Kentucky.