Pope Francis held his special monthly Jubilee Audience on Sunday morning, speaking on the relationship between mercy and almsgiving.
Listen to Christopher Wells’ report:
Almsgiving, the Pope said, is intimately related to mercy. Throughout the Bible, almost like a refrain, God calls us to have a particular care for the poor, the destitute, strangers, orphans, widows. But this call comes with a special instruction: “When you give, give generously and not with a stingy heart. This means, the Pope said, “that charity requires, before all else, an attitude of interior joy – offering mercy cannot be a weight or a nuisance” from which we quickly free ourselves.
Rather, when we practice mercy by giving alms, we should “look into the faces” of those we help, so that we can see their true needs. At the same time, we must carefully discern, so that our charity is truly helpful. “In short,” the Pope said, “almsgiving is an act of love directed towards those we meet; it is an act of sincere care for those who are near to us and who seek our help.”
Pope Francis reminded his listeners that almsgiving should not be done to win the praise and admiration of others. “It is not the appearance that counts, but to look into the face of those who are near to us, and who need our help.” Recalling the words of Jesus, the Pope reminded us that almsgiving should be done in secret, “where God alone sees and understands the value” of what we do.
Finally, in off the cuff remarks Pope Francis said that almsgiving should involve a sacrifice. This, he said, is a way to unite ourselves with the poor. “I deprive myself of something of my own, to give it to you.” And he called on parents to teach their children to give to others in this way, “to be generous with what we have.”
Below, please find the official English language summary of the Pope’s remarks:
Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis for this Holy Year of Mercy, we now consider the practice of almsgiving. Our English word “alms” comes from an ancient Greek word itself meaning “mercy”. Giving “alms” is more than simply giving money; it is a matter of heart-felt concern for those in genuine need. The Bible speaks of almsgiving as a God-given duty, which must be carried out freely and joyfully, but also with a sense of responsibility. We need to distinguish the truly poor from the various forms of begging which do not help them. Jesus himself encourages a quiet and sincere concern for others who need our help, but warns against acts of charity performed to gain the approval of others. In our efforts to be merciful, let us take to heart his words: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
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