Leviticus 19:1–2, 11–18 ; Psalm 19:8, 9,10, 15; Matthew 25:31–46
The first days of Lent feature scriptural selections that emphasize the lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Today Moses articulates the love of neighbor as part of God’s law. The people’s conduct is motivated by the holiness of the God they worship.
Jesus makes that motivation even more personal, in the famous Matthew 25 passage, in which he identifies himself with the poor and needy to whom we should minister in the world.
Frances of Rome, in the fourteenth century, can easily be patron of our lenten almsgiving, as we seek the face of Jesus in hungry, naked, homeless, ill, or imprisoned people. Married to a wealthy young nobleman, Frances teamed up with her sister-in-law to help the poor, with their husbands’ support. Frances balanced her charity with care for her family, but when a severe plague broke out in Italy and spread to the city of Rome, Frances turned all her possessions into alms for the suffering. After her two children died, she turned part of her home into a hospital.
Eventually, she received permission to found a society of women not bound to traditional vows of religious life, dedicated to serving the poor. After her husband’s death, Frances went to live with the society she founded, spending the rest of her life in finding Christ in those she helped.
Choose some kind of lenten almsgiving that will involve you in hands-on service with the poor.
Jesus, visible in our neighbor, visible in our neighbor, show us your face in the hungry and thirsty,
the naked and homeless, the prisoner and the stranger.
Move us to action so we may fulfill the ancient law to love God and neighbor.