Lenten Journey Day 4 – Giving

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As we are coming to understand, Lent gives us an opportunity to slow down and strip life to its essentials. We are finding what is really essential and necessary for our life.
Today we discover that the act of giving, that is charity, is an essential element of life, that is, it is necessary for healthy living. In real terms, giving is one act that you can’t “give-up” for Lent. Giving to others enhances our spiritual life.
Let us take at the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus instructs us on the proper manner of giving. Jesus says, “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them. For then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give alms do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the street so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you they have received their reward. When you give alms do not let your left hand know what the right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6)
Giving, or acting on charity, is an outward expression of our faith. By giving to others we are expressing the inner desires of our heart. Those expressions tell a lot about us. In the giving process we develop patterns and slowly we find that we are juggling our giving along with the receiving and taking processes.  We seek to find a balance between our giving and receiving. For instance, we give to those from whom it is possible to receive and we take from those who are giving.
When Jesus says, “It is better to give then it is to receive,” he is disrupting the balance. He is placing a greater-than sign in place of the equal sign and we’re called to do the same. He says when you give, keep it pure. If you give to others make sure that is a true giving without expectation of anything in return.  In fact throughout the Gospels Jesus instructs us to help the poor, to aid those in need. Why? Well, the first answer is obvious: because they need it. But what is not so apparent is that even more, weneed to give! When we aid others and help them we understand that life is more than the accumulation of wealth. We realize that life is not made up of the stuff and things that we call possession. Those thing, in fact, possess us!
When Jesus cautions us not to sound a trumpet when giving, he is instructing us to keep it pure. Give with no expectation. Even the applause and the praise of others is something we receive in return, so avoid it by giving in secret. In so doing, our giving is unidirectional, and that type of giving is egoless, selfless. On this fourth day of Lent, we are beginning to understand the importance of losing the self. When ego doesn’t matter, the desires of the heart are truly pure. Giving becomes an expression of love, unconditionally, without expectation of anything in return.
During the Lenten period we are called to really examine ourselves, with fasting, with prayer and with giving. Giving is the easiest of the three to examine, because we notice ourselves giving. There is a record of our actions. Take advantage of this time.  Try this small and simple exercise. Examine your past and your present for people who have touched you in a unique manner. You may be surprised to find that the ones who have influenced you the most were not the superstars. They were not the athletes, the recording stars and the mega-rich. In fact, they were the very simple people who gave something to you without expectation for their personal rewards. Perhaps it was a mother, a father,  perhaps a grandfather or grandmother. Perhaps a friend who shared some time with you or some advice. And the fact that you remember these people is proof that giving never dies because it is an expression of love.
One-way giving is the kind of giving God expects because it is the type of giving He demonstrates in His love for us. One-way giving is a definition of Love. God gives us the most precious gift of all, that life that we have. He gives us salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ and it is given unconditionally, in other words despite ourselves. So in the same manner give to others. In fact throughout the gospels Jesus instructs us to give to others who have absolutely no way to pay us back. Why? Because in so doing we become God-like. God did the same thing. He gave to people who had absolutely no way to repay Him. How can you payback life and salvation? And God answers by saying, do the same to others. Love and care for others with no expectation and no conditions.
So give freely. And remember, the object of your giving is not the tangibles alone. More important that what is in your pocket is what is in your heart. Give your time. Give your attention. Give your love. Find an elderly person who needs a few moments of your time. Find a child who needs you to read a book. Find a person who needs food. Find another who is in need of shelter. Or simply, find someone who needs a smile and for you to hold his or her hand. Give and express your love.
Let us pray one of the prayers of St. Nerses Shnorhali:
Bestower of mercy grant that I may come to you with true faith, with good works and by the communion of the Holy body and blood. Have mercy upon your creatures and upon me, a great sinner. (From St. Nersess Shnorhali’s “I confess with Faith,” 19/24)
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Vazken Movsesian

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