I remember as a teenager walking the streets of Washington, D.C., for the March for Life. We were there to support a child's right to life. We were walking with Fr. Ben Shockey. It was my first encounter with him. I am pretty sure we were enjoying an ice cream cone while walking. On the sidewalk was a homeless man asking for money. I remember Fr. Ben walking over to give him money, as we stood by eating our ice cream, quite the juxtaposition.

He shared that once he had given to someone in need, after which the "man" lit up; it was an angel. The figure thanked Father for giving "to the least of these." Some details of the story are hazy, maybe he was even just sharing a story told to him, but it has forever impacted me, as I'm sure it did him, regarding the importance of standing up for ALL life.

We have grown up in a generation of people accustomed to judging others. We judge the person begging; we hear talk of cash given being used for drugs, alcohol and other things. Fear is instilled in us for what we could encounter; we hear "they are just looking for handouts." Maybe for some this is true, but for others it is not, and yet it makes it easier for us to turn a blind eye to those who are truly in need.

We know it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. Aren't we, Christians in the U.S., all rich in comparison to the beggar? In the New Testament, the rich man went away sad because, despite all the ways he followed Jesus, he couldn't "sell all he had and give to the poor." His wealth had become his idol; maybe for us it is control, security, fear of not having enough (time or money). Even so, we know that those who give food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty, who care for the sick and visit the imprisoned... those who do these things for the least of His family ... do for Him and will inherit the Kingdom (Mt. 28:31-40).

The assumptions, the judgements, those are not our job. We are, however, called to do the Corporal Works of Mercy. We are called to love the least of these. We are called to love. We are all part of the Body, and when one part is weak, we all suffer. What if one small act conveys the heart of the Father and causes conversion, just as one small ripple can change an entire body of water?

But what if we don't love? What if we aren't generous and cling too close to our pockets? Our fear, our insecurity, our accusations, our judgements can get in the way of our own salvation. Do we really love Him? Does He really abide in us? Whom do we put our faith and trust in? My God is a God of miracles, and He sends the Holy Spirit in power in every preaching of the Gospel, word, or deed.

How? Simple ways. First, I challenge you to ask how your tithe in the Diocese goes to those in need. If you haven't tithed, begin. Realize it is FAR more than just giving to support a school your children currently go to. Start somewhere. Somewhere is better than nowhere.

The Diocese also says 2% of our total tithe can go directly to others we see in need. A great start would be to donate non-perishables to our parish's Lenten Food Drive for Our Daily Bread Food Pantry. Research the current needs for St. Anthony Family Shelter, Harbor House, or A Better Choice. Keep a stash of water and blankets in your car to hand out. Did you know you can get soap strips that dissolve and suds up with water? What a gift. Make homeless kits with soap, toothbrushes, facial tissue, protein bars, and water to hand out. If you have a particular passion, ask your parish priest for a related cause you can donate to or do the research yourself. Look up different obituaries and donate to memorial funds listed. Just. Start. Somewhere.

If you get the opportunity, share with those you encounter how much God loves them and what He did for them. Be His hands and feet. Care for the least of these. Be the heart of the Father to them. It is someone's brother, cousin, child, and HIS beloved. You never know when an angel or even Jesus Himself will appear thanking you for loving Him.

Unique Almsgiving Suggestions

  • Provide free services to those in need: babysitting, raking, mowing, cooking, cleaning, tutoring etc.

  • Offer to take people to appointments or lessons

  • Join SFA's Caring Hands Ministry to provide meals for parishioners in need

  • Bake cookies for someone

  • Donate groceries, clothes, books, school supplies for those in need. (Check with Catholic Charities)

  • Donate to a ministry such as Mary's Meals, Vagabond Missions, Franciscan Friars of Renewal, etc.

  • Donate to an individual missionary from your hometown. (eg. NET Ministries, FOCUS, Totus Tuus)

  • Volunteer at a hospital

  • Volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters

  • Foster or adopt children

Christina Brouillette — SFA Theologians Guild Member