Monday of 1st Week of Lent--A

Giving Alms—One of the Pillars of Lent

One of the three pillars of Lent is almsgiving. What is almsgiving? Or rather how would we give alms? To give alms is not to steal from others, reminds us the words of the Lord from the book of Leviticus, not to lie or speak falsely about other, not swear falsely by the name of the Lord, not take what belong to neighbor, pay justly to one another, do not use unkind words and unkind deeds to one another, and do not bear hatred for others in your heart, and do not take revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen and love your neighbor as yourself.

The Lord Jesus, in today’s Gospel, teaches us how to give alms by saying, “I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” If we do these to one of the least ones, the Lord Jesus reminds us, we do it for him.

Albrecht Durer, the elder of 18 siblings, came from a parents whose father was a goldsmith by profession and worked almost 18 hours a day to support the family. Albrecht the younger and Albert had a dream. They both wanted to pursue their talent for art, but they knew that their father would never be financially able to send either of them to Nuremberg to study at the academy there. After many long discussions at night in their crowded bed, the two boys finally worked out by tossing a coin. The loser would go to work in nearby mines and, with his earnings, support his brother while he attended the academy. Then, in four years, when that brother who won the toss completed his studies, he would support the other brother at the academy, either with sales of his artwork or, if necessary, also by laboring in the mines. They tossed a coin on a Sunday morning after Church. Albrecht the younger won the toss and went off to Nuremberg. Albert went down into the dangerous mines and, for the next four years, financed his brother.

At a festive dinner after Albrecht came back, Albrecht rose from his honored position at the head of the table to drink a toast to his beloved brother for the years of sacrifice that had enabled Albrecht to fulfill his ambition. His closing words were, “And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you.” Albert replied, “No, brother. I cannot go to Nuremberg. It is too late for me. Look what four years in the mines have done to my hands. The bones in every finger have been smashed at least once, and lately I have been suffering from arthritis so badly in my right hand that I cannot even hold a glass to return your toast, much less make delicate lines on parchment or canvas with a pen or a brush. No, brother, for me it is too late.” Albrecht Durer’s most famous work, “Praying Hands”, some believe that he drew his brother’s abused hands with palms together and thin fingers stretched skyward in honor of his brother Albert. He called his powerful drawing simply “Hands,” but the entire world almost immediately opened their hearts to his great masterpiece and renamed his tribute of love, “Praying Hands.” Perhaps, almsgiving, one of the three pillars of Lent, is to extend an arm to help others from the love of our heart. Lenten observance of almsgiving will become meaningless when we just give what is left over, what is for convenient, and what is not need any more to help others. What is almsgiving for you?

 

Weekday Homilies 2019

Homilies by Fr. Joseph Thang Nguyen


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