LENTEN CONVERSION: don’t squabble over who should give

During Lent, I try to use Lectio Divina as a way to become a more penitential person, being more humble and obedient to the will of God each day. One of my Lectio meditations (not at the level of contemplation) is on the subject of giving. I think of my core Lectio Divina saying (Philippians 2:5): “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” I think about how giving God is and how I am so very far from what I should be.


The thought struck me that almsgiving and any type of giving have two dimensions. First, it makes me happy to give to others. In a way, my reward for giving is the good feeling I have in my stomach that I have made someone happy, that I have helped others somehow. When I notice people around me giving to others, something is missing here, even being generous to a fault. Giving as one who does it because they love to give others is common even among pagans and non-believers. When one receives the adoption as a son or daughter of the Father at Baptism, this is a gift from God to each of us. We are bid to do the same. When someone who is signed with the mark of the cross gives, they have all the feelings and emotions of giving to others as do their secular counterparts, but they do it in the name of Christ.

St. Benedict stresses hospitality in Chapter 53 of the Rule. Christ is the difference between what secular society thinks of in hospitality and those who have in them the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5) Read this chapter for yourself.

Chapter 53: The Reception of Guests

1 All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matt 25:35). 2 Proper honor must be shown to all, especially to those who share our faith (Gal 6:10) and to pilgrims. 3 Once a guest has been announced, the superior and the brothers are to meet him with all the courtesy of love. 4 First of all, they are to pray together and thus be united in peace, 5 but prayer must always precede the kiss of peace because of the delusions of the devil. 6 All humility should be shown in addressing a guest on arrival or departure. 7 By a bow of the head or by a complete prostration of the body, Christ is to be adored because he is indeed welcomed in them. 8 After the guests have been received, they should be invited to pray; then the superior or an appointed brother will sit with them. 9 The divine law is read to the guest for his instruction, and after that every kindness is shown to him. 10 The superior may break his fast for the sake of a guest, unless it is a day of special fast which cannot be broken. 11 The brothers, however, observe the usual fast. 12 The abbot shall pour water on the hands of the guests, 13 and the abbot with the entire community shall wash their feet. 14 After the washing they will recite this verse: God, we have received your mercy in the midst of your temple (Ps 47[48]:10). 15 Great care and concern are to be shown in receiving poor people and pilgrims, because in them more particularly Christ is received; our very awe of the rich guarantees them special respect.

The second dimension is much less celebrated; it is the art of receiving gifts from others. I have seen people close to me want to pick up the check when taking friends to dine to the point of actually squabbling over who should pay. It can get quite heated in the verbal jousting over who pays. Some people love to give but react negatively when someone tries to give a gift to them. As in the first dimension, receiving can be either secular or spiritual. Here are some thoughts I had about the quality of receiving.

If I am marked with the sign of the cross, I want to allow others to be generous with me. That does not mean I seek gifts, but rather see the humility to recognize that the one giving to me needs that to increase Christ in them. I want to be conscious of what is going on.

I offer my thanks to others without much fanfare. In the Eucharist, the Sign of Peace is probably not understood as something important, but you should take another look. The peace of Christ is not the absence of strife but the presence of love. When you share Christ with one another, the Christ in your heart embraces the heart of Christ in the other. You not only give the peace of Christ to someone else, but you receive it back with Jesus being present.

Receiving is the precursor to having the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist in your heart and mind, to once again commit yourself to Jesus as Lord and Savior. You receive Jesus into your heart, but you also give your love to the Father through, with, and in Christ with the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict once a day.


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