Each Lent Christians are called upon to practice the ancient discipline of almsgiving during this Holy Season. We are reminded of the attraction of material riches of which so many in our world make an idol, and that almsgiving helps us overco
me this constant temptation, teaching us to respond to our neighbor’s needs and to share with others whatever we possess through divine goodness. Joseph Cardinal Zen, the former bishop of Hong Kong, shared with the people of his Diocese how Lenten almsgiving saved his family from hunger. When he was a child living with his parents in Shanghai during the second world war, his father was ill and out of work due to a stroke. There were seven children in the family. One snowy day, all had stayed in bed trying to stay warm and all were wondering whether there would be any rice to eat that day. Even though the souls of his plastic shoes were cracked, his father urged Joseph to get up and go and serve Mass as he did every morning. And his father added, “May God give us our daily bread.” After Mass as Joseph was ready to race back home, an elderly man approached him and inquired about his father, saying that he had not seen him at Mass for some time. Joseph explained about his family situation and the man took him to his home and took out a stack of money, counted it, wrapped it up and handed it to Joseph. He said, “Take good care, and bring this to your father.” With this money, the family had enough money to buy food for several months. The family was saved from ruin by the almsgiving of this man, only really an acquaintance, but someone who saw in Joseph’s father and family, brothers and sisters in Christ for whom he had to care. Like this elderly man, may we take to heart the reminder that Lent is a perfect time for helping the poor with the sole intention of seeking God’s glory.