March 3, 2024

Dear friends in Christ,

As we mark the midpoint of Lent during this third week, we are reminded that our journey of penance and reflection is far from over. Lent challenges us to break free from our spiritual routines, urging us to embrace change and to seek a renewal that propels us towards the ultimate goal of perfection in the image of our heavenly Father, as urged by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:48).

In this season of transformation, the Church wisely guides us towards prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, three pillars that support our quest for spiritual perfection. Yet, while prayer and fasting are embraced with enthusiasm, almsgiving frequently remains the less trodden path, often overlooked and underappreciated. This omission is not for lack of need or opportunity but perhaps stems from a misunderstanding of its value and the joy it brings.

Almsgiving, fundamentally, is the act of giving to those in need, whether through monetary donations, food, or other goods. This practice is a profound exercise in detachment, reminding us that material wealth is not our ultimate goal. More than a personal discipline, almsgiving is inherently social, emphasizing the relational nature of our faith. It is an expression of love, a visible sign of our commitment to the welfare of others, mirroring the self-giving love of God. In doing so, we live out the commandment that what we do for the least among us, we do for Christ Himself (Mt 25:40).

The Gospel reading for the third Sunday of Lent, John 2:13-25, presents Jesus cleansing the Temple, an act of zeal for His Father’s house. Jesus’s actions disrupt the routine, challenging the status quo and calling for a return to authentic worship and devotion. This passage invites us to consider our own practices of faith, including almsgiving, as expressions of our zeal for God’s house. Just as Jesus sought to purify the temple, we are called to purify our intentions and actions, making them true offerings to God.

Choosing whom to support through almsgiving can seem daunting given the myriad of worthy causes. Yet, it is precisely in making these choices that we can find a deeper connection to our faith and the world around us. By aligning our almsgiving with our passions and concerns, we can make meaningful contributions. My personal commitment to the Annual Catholic Appeal is driven by a deep appreciation for its impact on our local Church’s mission, including support for parishes, seminaries, schools, and outreach programs. Having benefitted from the Church’s generosity myself, I understand firsthand how such support can change lives. This experience fuels my passion for giving, making my contributions not just acts of charity, but integral parts of my spiritual practice.

Almsgiving, therefore, is more than a duty; it is an opportunity to draw closer to Christ, who showed a special preference for the poor. It is a witness to fraternal charity and a work of justice pleasing to God, as highlighted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 2462). Let us embrace almsgiving with renewed vigor, allowing it to transform us and bring us closer to the perfection to which we are called.

As we continue our Lenten journey, let us seek to disrupt our routines, inspired by the Gospel’s call to authentic worship and devotion. May our practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving help us to follow more closely in the footsteps of Christ, who has shown us the path to true perfection.

Faithfully yours in Christ,

Msgr. Cuong M. Pham