Is your budget stretched to its limit this Lent? With gas prices and food prices much higher than they were last month, I am right there with you.
However, just because we don’t feel like we have money to give, we are still called to stretch our hearts this Lent through generosity in almsgiving. The Church doesn’t say that the Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are only for the wealthy. She asks all of us to embrace sacrifices in these 40 days to help us move ever closer to God.
So, what’s a Christian to do? You want to give, and you know you should give, but feeding yourself and your family is taking every last penny. Well, here are a few outside of the box ways to give when you just don’t have the cash.
Give your time
Is there a Lenten fish fry in your area? Or is your parish hosting a Lenten retreat? Offer to help set up or clean up afterwards. Could a friend use some babysitting help? Offer to sit with someone’s kids for an evening.
Be vigilant for ways you can help. If you hear about an acquaintance who is moving, step up. Maybe you live near a retirement home, and can visit with some residents one night.
If you ask the Holy Spirit to show you where to give your time, He will draw your attention to someone or a group of people who need you and your specific talents.
Give your attention
Is there someone you have been avoiding lately? I don’t mean someone you are establishing legitimate boundaries with because of past issues, I mean someone you are avoiding just because they aren’t particularly enjoyable to be around. Make an effort (and go out of your way if necessary) to have a conversation with him or her. Or think about someone in your community you could help welcome.
Could you have a conversation with someone after Sunday Mass you haven’t talked to before? One friendly interaction can make all the difference. I remember moving to my current city and going to a new parish. The first day I went, one person said hello in the parking lot after Mass, making small talk about my out-of-state license plate. That was all it took to make me want to come back, and to feel like maybe I could find a home in this new church.
Give your treats
Can you pause your Netflix or Spotify subscription for a month, and give that money to someone in need? What about skipping fast food or your fancy coffee one time this month? Then give the money to a local cause or someone you know who needs it. It might not be much, but if you think back to the widow in the gospels, it doesn’t need to be a large amount of money to be a true sacrifice.
Not only will you be giving alms this way, but you’ll get a dose of fasting too while you’re at it. Pray for the person you are helping with your sacrifice and, boom, you’ve got all three Lenten practices covered in one movement.
The goal of almsgiving is to remember that our possessions, our money, and our very selves do not belong to us. God gives us life, and holds us in being. We need to be able to see our lives as gifts from Him, rather than focusing on our lives as products of our own effort and hard work. The less attached we are to our view of things and our plans, the more we can attach ourselves to His plan and will for our lives.
Jesus, we give you our time, attention and treats this Lent, by giving them to others instead of using them for ourselves. Help us to love like you, and thus get to know you better. Amen.