Thursday, March 07, 2019

Almsgiving and Reality

Image result for begging
Almsgiving means giving to the poor, its easy nowadays, we do it by clicking on a screen.
In the past it meant going out to the find the poor or letting them into our comfort zone, it meant being disturbed by them, seeing, smelling their poverty for ourselves and even risking our safety in our encounter with them.

Giving alms to the sick could well risk catching their sickness or coming home with fleas or worse. Almsgiving is about solidarity with the poor but also education of the rich.
Related image
There is an element of reminding us of the fleeting nature of our existence and the turn of the wheel of fortune. I met a wealthy businessman from Mosul, ISIS came, he fled and ended up with nothing in a refugee camp in Jordan, "not even my dignity", and now lives with his family in tiny room as an impoverished exile in Brighton. We might think that our wealth protects but it is an illusion but war, economic collapse, even illness can change everything. Poverty can reveal the gracious prince as a vicious beggar, sickness can reveal the sweet and benign old man as a self obsessed God cursing beast.

Remember Chrysostom: If we give from our excess we are doing nothing but returning what we have grabbed for ourselves, almsgiving is about giving from your necessities.

The late Father John Edwards SJ used to say: you can tell where your heart is and what is important to you by looking at yout bank statement.

1 comment:

Michael Leahy said...

I don't wish to contest the notion of Charity, but St. John Crysostum might not have been entirely correct when he described giving alms as merely returning what the donor grabbed from someone else. Obviously, this good saint was not an economist, and not that one should put much faith in the latter, but wealth is not a zero-sum game existing in a closed system. If that were true, it would not be possible to support so many more people currently than lived in Saint John's time. We now feed far more people on this planet than ever was the case before. Perhaps we are only grabbing the wealth from future generations, but we don't know that, by any means. It seems to me that God has provided an abundance of wealth and provided the skills to many to take advantage of it. To propose absolute equality, in those circumstances, implying that the honest wealthy man is disallowed from enjoying the added benefits of his work, notwithstanding a duty to help his neighbour, seems dangerously close to Marxism and is surely not what Our Lord intended?