JUBILEE AUDIENCE: On True Charity

‘It is not the appearance that counts, but the capacity to stop and look at the face of the person who asks for help. Each one of us can ask him/herself: “Am I able to stop and look at the face, look in the eyes of the person that is asking me for help? Am I able to do so?’

CTV Pope - General Audience

Below is a ZENIT translation of Pope Francis’ address during his 4th Jubilee Audience held Saturday morning in St. Peter’s Square. The Jubilee Audiences are being held on Saturdays, once a month, during the Holy Year:

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Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

The Gospel we heard enables us to discover the essential aspect of mercy: almsgiving. It might seem simple to give alms, but we must be careful not to empty this gesture of the great content it has. In fact, the term “alms” stems from the Greek and means precisely “mercy.” Therefore, almsgiving should bring with it all the richness of mercy, and as mercy has a thousand ways, a thousand forms, so almsgiving is expressed in many ways, to alleviate the hardship of those in need.

The duty of almsgiving is ancient as the Bible shows. Sacrifice and almsgiving were two duties that a religious person had to observe. There are important pages in the Old Testament, where God exacts special attention for the poor that from time to time have nothing, strangers, orphans and widows. And this same old story is constantly in the Bible: the needy, the widow, the stranger, the foreigner, the orphan … it is the same old story. Because God wants His people to look at these brothers of ours, rather, I would say in fact that they are at the center of the message: to praise God with sacrifice and to praise God with almsgiving.

Together with the obligation to remember them, a valuable indication is also given: “You shall give freely, and your heart shall not be grudging” (Deuteronomy 15:10). This means that charity requires, first of all, an attitude of interior joy. To offer mercy cannot be a burden or an annoyance, of which to free oneself in haste. And how many people justify themselves for not giving alms saying: “But how will this turn out? He to whom I give perhaps will go to get drunk.” However, if he gets drunk it is because he has no other way! And you, what do you do hidden, which no one sees? And you set yourself up as judge of that poor man who asks you for a coin for a glass of wine? I like to recall the episode of the elderly Tobit who, after receiving a large sum of money, called his son and instructed him with these words: “Give alms from your possessions. Do not turn your face away from any of the poor, so that God’s face will not be turned away from you. Give in proportion to what you own. If you have great wealth, give alms out of your abundance; if you have but little, do not be afraid to give alms even of that little.” (Tobit 4:7-8). They are very wise words, which help to understand the value of almsgiving.

As we heard, Jesus has left us an irreplaceable teaching in this regard. First of all, He asks us not to give alms to be praised and admired by men for our generosity: do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing (Matthew 6:3). It is not the appearance that counts, but the capacity to stop and look at the face of the person who asks for help. Each one of us can ask him/herself: “Am I able to stop and look at the face, look in the eyes of the person that is asking me for help? Am I able to do so?” Therefore, we must not identify almsgiving with a simple coin given in haste, without looking at the person and without stopping to speak with him/her to understand what his/her real need is. At the same time, we must distinguish between the poor and the various forms of begging that do not render a good service to the truly poor. In sum, almsgiving is a gesture of love that is addressed to all those we meet; it is a gesture of sincere attention to one who approaches us and asks for our help, done in secret where only God sees and understands the value of the act carried out.

However, almsgiving should also be for us something that is a sacrifice. I remember a mother: she had three children, six, five and three years old, more or less. And she always taught her children that one must give alms to those people who ask for it. They were at lunch: each one was eating a Milanese cutlet, as we say in my land, “breaded.” Someone knocked on the door. The oldest <child> went to open the door and returned <saying>: “Mother, there is a poor man who is asking for something to eat.” “What should we do?”, asked the mother. “We must give him, we give him,” they all said. “Well, take half of your cutlet, you take the other half, <and> you the other half, and we will make two sandwiches”. “Oh no, mother, no!” “No? You must give of your own, give what costs you.” This is to involve oneself with the poor man. I deny myself something of my own to give it to you. And to parents, I say: educate your children to give alms thus, to be generous with those who <do not> have.

So, let us make our own the Apostle Paul’s words: “in all things I have shown you that by so toiling one must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive!’” (Acts 20:35; cf. 2 Corinthians 9:7). Thank you!

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]

Italian Greetings

Dear Italian-speaking pilgrims: Welcome!

I am happy to receive the faithful of some Italian dioceses accompanied by their respective Pastors: Genoa, Turin, Amalfi-Cava de’ Tirreni, Matera-Irsina, Brescia and Nocera Inferiore-Sarno. I greet the pilgrims of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart; of Caritas of Casale Monferrato and of the Italian Federation of Catholic Weeklies, which observe the 50th anniversary of foundation. I greet the Daughters of the Most Holy Redeemer and of the Blessed Virgin Addolorata, celebrating 200 years of apostolate, and the Faithful of Ancona, Mede Lomellina and Andria. I exhort you to revive your faith with the crossing of the Holy Door, to be witnesses of the love of the Risen Lord with concrete works of mercy.

A greeting goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. May this Holy Year be lived with particular intensity. Dear young people, especially you youngsters of the Profession of Faith of the diocese of Tivoli, always be faithful to your Baptism with the coherent witness of life; dear sick, in particular the members of UNITALSI of Lombardy and of Campania, may the light of Easter illumine and comfort you in your suffering; and you, dear newlyweds, draw from the Paschal Mystery the courage to be protagonists in the Church and in society, contributing to the building of the civilization of love.

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]

 

 

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