February 2010 - District Superior's Letter
Almsgiving is an integral part of Lent which extinguishes sins and detaches us from the goods of this world. Those who give alms will be blessed; those who give not will be punished. We cannot excuse ourselves from giving alms. The father of many children must offer up more prayers to God, he has more faults to atone for, more consciences to purify, more souls to set free. Let us reflect upon this obligation of giving alms.
Dear Friends and Benefactors,
The benefits of divine mercy
Great and numerous are the beneﬁts which God the Father in His inexhaustible bounty bestows upon us unceasingly. In order to save us and to give us the life of grace, to have us participate in the divine life, the Father has sent His Son. The Son has accepted His mission and has willed to become the Son of man, to make us children of God. He humiliated Himself, in order to raise us up from our abjection; He was wounded, to heal our wounds, He suffered death, to give us immortality. Such are the beneﬁts of divine mercy.
Almsgiving extinguishes sin and detaches us from the goods of this world
Saint John warns us, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1, 8) Through sin we have become debtors to God. Through the sacraments and His grace, a gratuitous gift, He draws us to Himself. “As water extinguishes the ﬁre,” says the Holy Ghost, “almsgiving extinguishes sin”.(Eccles. 3, 33) In Baptism, remission is granted only once; but our good works, through their continuity and their multiplication, unceasingly obtain for us indulgence and pardon from God. Consequently, Jesus, our master and our Saviour, recommends nothing so much as the giving of alms. He does not want us to seek the goods of the earth, but that we amass treasures in heaven. Sell, said He, all your possessions and give to the poor.
Do not seek the treasures of the earth, He said again, these treasures which are eaten away by moths and rust and which become the prey of thieves; but make unto yourselves treasures in heaven, where one fears not the moths, nor the rust, nor the efforts of thieves. There where your treasure is, there also is your heart. He shows by these words the perfection of the observance of the law: If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have, distribute it to the poor and you will have a treasure in heaven, then come and follow me” (Matt. 19). Elsewhere, He teaches us that this precious pearl, which is called eternal life, is given in exchange to those who sacriﬁce all their goods. The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant who seeks precious pearls. If he ﬁnds one, he sells that which he possesses and buys it (Matt. 13).
Almsgivers need not fear indigence; rather, they'll be blessed
If you fear that your liberalities will exhaust your patrimony and will reduce you to indigence, be reassured: Riches consecrated to the use of Christ cannot run out. This promise is not human. It rests on the faith and the authority of the Scriptures. The apostle Saint Paul tells us: “He who gives the seed to the labourer will give you also the bread of which you are in need; He will increase at the same time your harvest and your merits, so that you will be rich in all things.” And further: “Alms do not only give to the poor that which they need, they also increase the amount of our goods; because, while the prayers and the thanksgiving of the poor ascend to heaven, God is pleased to shower the charitable soul with His blessings.” (2 Cor. 9, 10) In the Gospel, the Lord speaks to the merciful men as well as to the unbelievers, and He tells them: “Do not ask yourselves, what will we eat? What will we drink? With what shall we be clothed? The pagans are anxious about all these things, but your heavenly Father knows what you are in need of. Seek ﬁrst the kingdom of God, and all the rest will be given to you in addition”. (Matt. 6, 31)
Such are the good things promised to those who seek after justice and the kingdom of God. Unfortunately, our modern and materialistic times, with a force almost irresistible, take us further and further away from the Christian ideal. The words of Saint Cyprian of Carthage are difﬁcult for us to discern: “Do you therefore believe that he who nourishes Christ is not nourished in turn by Christ? Do you believe that those who possess heavenly and divine goods will lack the things of the earth? From whence comes this calculation, beﬁtting an unbeliever? From whence comes this impious and sacrilegious thought? Why this deﬁance in the house of the faith? How can one call himself Christian, when one does not belong to Christ? Ah! The name of Pharisee is more suitable to you.” (St. Cyprian, On Works and Alms)
We cannot excuse ourselves from alms
Do not believe that you can exempt yourself from good works, by putting forward as an excuse, the interest of our children. In our alms, it is Christ who we must think of, because, according to His own expression, it is He who receives. Thus it is not our brethren, but the Lord, whom we prefer to our children. He who loves his father and his mother more than me, said He, is not worthy of me; he who loves his son and his daughter more than me, is not worthy of me (Matt. 10, 37). If we love God with all our heart, we must not prefer to Him either our parents, or our children. Money given to the poor is offered to God; in giving to the least, it is Christ to whom we give.
On the contrary, a great number of children is a reason to give more alms.
But, you will also say, often in our traditional families the children are numerous: these families cannot give abundant alms. No, on the contrary, the great number of children is one reason more for giving generously. The father of many children must offer up more prayers to God, he has more faults to atone for, more consciences to purify, more souls to set free. In this life, the more numerous the children, the greater are the expenses which they incur; it is the same in the spiritual life. The increase in the number of children requires an increase of good works. Job offered numerous sacriﬁces for his family; and the more it augmented, the more augmented also the alms and their favour, in order to make them dearer to God.
Saint Cyprian reminds the fathers of this duty: “You are a denatured father, if you do not take up the interests of your children, if you do not religiously attend to their preservation. More attached to the goods of the earth than to those of heaven, you entrust your children to the devil and not to Christ. Through that you commit a double crime: ﬁrst, because you do not dispose your children for the protection of their heavenly Father, and next, because you teach them to love riches more than Christ.” (On Works and Alms)
An insensitive man who doesn't give alms will be punished
Christ has shown us the course we must take: He promised an eternal reward to those who give alms; He threatened with eternal torments insensitive souls; the verdict is already written. We know, through His own words, how the judgment must take place. What excuse could be had, if we do not give alms? How can one defend himself, if he perseveres in his insensitiveness? Seeing that the servant does not perform the commands of the Master, the Master must carry out His threats.
Listen: “The Son of man shall appear in all his glory and his angels shall be with him. He shall take his place on a re-splendent throne; all the people shall be gathered together in his presence; and he shall separate them as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He shall place the sheep at his right, the goats at his left. And he will turn towards those who will be at his right, and say to them: Come, ye blessed of my Father, take possession of the kingdom which has been prepared for you from the foundation of the world; because I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in; I was naked, and you covered me; I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me. And the just shall answer: Lord, when have we appeased your hunger, relieved your thirst? When have we received you in your exile and clothed you in your nakedness? When have we seen you sick and in prison and come to visit you? And the king shall answer them: In truth, every time that you did these things to one of my least brethren, it is to me that you have done them.
Then, he shall say to those who shall be at his left hand: Depart from me, ye cursed, into the everlasting ﬁre which my Father has prepared for Satan and his angels; because I was hungry, and you did not give me to eat; I was thirsty, and you did not give me to drink; I was a stranger and you did not receive me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison, and you did not visit me. The wicked will also answer and say to the Lord, when have we seen you suffering quote hunger or thirst? When have we seen you a stranger, naked, sick, in prison, without coming to your assistance? And Jesus will say to them: Verily, I say to you, all the times that you have not done these things to one of these least, you have refused to do them to me. And the wicked will go into eternal ﬁre and the just into eternal life.” (Matt. 25, 31-46).
How much more direct could Christ be?
Could Christ have commanded a more deﬁnite precept? Could He have directed us more to the works of mercy than by telling us: To give to the poor is to give to Myself, to refuse to the poor is to gravely offend Me?
Therefore, let us work towards our eternal salvation during this holy time of Lent. While there is time, let us do good to everyone. In doing good, we will never be in indigence, and later, we will harvest the fruits.
With my wishes for a Good and Holy time of Lent,
Father Jürgen Wegner