On my first mission trip to General Cepeda, Mexico I was humbled by the generosity of the poor we were there to serve. The first mass I celebrated in my broken Spanish was with about ten people gathered in a small building in one of the poorest ranchos outside of General Cepeda. During mass, an elderly woman got up from her seat, walked behind me and started to search for something behind the flowers near the tabernacle. I was stunned when she pulled out a collection basket. How could this be? Aren’t these people the poorest of the poor? What money do they have to give?
I stopped what I was doing and watched in humble awe as she proceeded to do what every good usher does: she passed the basket among her neighbors and everyone dropped in money. After the mass, this elderly woman came to me with the basket that contained a few pesos and told me to give this money to the other ranchos I will be visiting. I immediately thought of the Gospel story of the poor widow with two coins found in Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4.
The generosity of this poor community has made me think hard about why and how we give.
Why We Give
When you give away money, you are doing your part in acting in God’s justice to help those less fortunate than yourself. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that almsgiving is “giving to the poor as a witness to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God.” (CCC #2462). In a way you’re also evangelizing in sharing the Good News of God’s love for His children. This is why we give.
Does giving feel good? Sure, doing good things for people, especially strangers, makes us feel good. But almsgiving is not something we do to make ourselves feel good.
But what about me? Our selfish side can very easily keep us from giving. “I work hard for what I earn, I want my toys” is the mindset of a materialistic and self-centered world. We’re used to people only looking out for themselves, and sometimes it feels good to do it to. But that is not what Jesus taught us. Here’s a good way to look at it:
- God comes first
- Others come second
Yes, things are nice to have, but do I really need them? Or do I just want them? The question I always ask myself is this: “Is this thing bringing me closer to Christ or taking my time away from Him?” Ironically, I have found through personal experience that the more I give away the more God gives me.
How We Give (Even When You’re Broke)
This is all great if you have money to give. Obviously many teenagers don’t have jobs or don’t have an allowance. The good news is that almsgiving is not solely about giving money. We can give alms in the way of our time or talent as well as our treasure.
- Time - Taking the time to do a corporal work of mercy (feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned and burying the dead)
- Talent – Do you have a special talent that you can share? For instance, if you are a good guitar player, you could help in the music ministry at your church. If you are good with children, use your talent to read to underprivileged kids at a local library.
Summary: The Time is Now
Jesus constantly speaks of putting others before our own self and giving not so much out of our excess but from all that we have. Lent is an amazing season of penance in preparation of the great celebration of Easter. I strongly encourage you to enter, if you have not yet done so, into this holy season with more prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
Editor’s Note: Did you know that last year Life Teen and Edge programs around the world collected change to dig water wells in Africa? Learn More