Lenten Contemplations

Day Twenty-four (Friday)abstinence

Charity and Compassion.

"But remember: anyone who sows sparsely will reap sparsely as well -
and anyone who sows generously will reap generously as well.  Each
one should give as much as he has decided on his own initiative, not
reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

2 Corinthians 9:6-7; The New Jerusalem Bible

Like a couple holding hands, charity and compassion need and complement one another; one could argue that you cannot have one without the other.  Charity is the beautiful act of giving without recognition, or expectation of return.  It is the fullness of love and gratitude in our hearts flowing out, driven to do something, give something, for no other reason except joy.  This is why compassion is hand-in-hand with charity - for without compassion, one does not feel the full expression of charity.

If we give because we feel compelled through obligation, we are responding perfunctorily to a recognized need or request. This it seems could be a stepping stone.  For while we are still giving out of obligation, we are also asking ourselves, "Why am I giving?  Why should I give?  Who cares about me?"  We hear our conscious speak to us about what we are doing, and we might hear that nagging voice tell us,  "I deserve more, so why am I offering my goods to others?"  If we meditate on these questions in prayer and ask the Lord what good it serves, then we're going to receive our answer.

I discovered that giving from the heart brings so much satisfaction, for you're not expecting anything in return.  And since there's no return, you experience a form of graciousness that not only were you blessed to be able to give something - whether it be money, clothing, food, time, a helping hand or advice - but you don't feel a need to receive in return. Charity helps to open our hearts to those around us whom we have never noticed or may have overlooked, who may be in need of something we can give or share. 

When we see people in need of what we've been given, it may spark guilt in some, but it is not our place to feel guilty for the gifts given unto us.  If we transcend our guilt, we can begin to address this "neediness" in a different light.  If we recognize those who we can help, or offer help to, may have been be put in our paths for us to learn from, we can transcend our guilt and share the abundance given unto us.  It is out of the gratitude for what we have that compels.  It takes compassion to identify with someone's lot in life.  The rich man's pocket may be full, but his spirit empty.  The poor man's pocket may be empty, but his spirit full; with compassion each one could offer something to the other.  We may never know this unless we take advantage of the given moment. 

And while I understand what charity is, I am still learning that it's not always about money or objects.  It's not about what you have or don't have - It goes much deeper than the material.  It becomes a part of our consciousness where gratitude and appreciation take the form of charity; where giving becomes contribution and you become a part of something much greater.  It is where you begin to long to be a part of humanity and it's betterment, and you are asking how you can contribute and not gain. 

 Day Twenty-five (Saturday)

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and
decay destroys, and thieves break in and steal.  But store up treasures
in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroy, nor thieves break in
and steal.  For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be."

Matthew 6:19-21; The New American Bible

The opposite of charity is greed.  Greed drives one man to sin, the other to vengeance.  Greed takes victims and harbors selfishness.  Greed keeps us from our potentials as it preys upon the weaknesses of ourselves and others, and the consequences of greed upon our souls is disastrous.  If one cannot let go of selfish desires, those very desires begin to rot the psyche.  Indifference takes root and justifies actions against the will of the holy spirit.  In greed, you are not serving, you are taking, and unrightfully.  The mind is deceived by depraved thoughts of self-serving lies to cover up the lack of giving from the heart.  It begins to disfigure and detach one from the source of goodness and attach itself to a source of evil. 

Greed creates poverty in the heart, mind, body and soul.  It can create ill health through gluttony; disfigurement through vanity; relationships drown in shallowness, and loneliness and darkness become the excuse and the result.  Greed corrupts kindness; it destroys value and ultimately it destroys mankind's humanity.  If this were not true of greed, the world wouldn't be in a state of imbalance and voices full of prayer for righteousness over evil wouldn't be sounding out. 

So what then are we to do about greed?  We can't control another, but we do have authority over ourselves, our lives and what we allow or disallow.  By starting with ourselves and correcting our own actions we can lead by example.  Our choices are important.  What seems greedy to one, may not be to the other.  Ultimately, we have to decide for ourselves if our actions serve humanity.  For some people who walk in the path of Christ, they cannot fathom greediness.  There hearts are filled with the compassion and teachings of Christ, so their minds cannot understand or comprehend ill-intended actions.  Christ teaches us the opposite of greed which involves charity and if your heart is charitable, it isn't seeking for itself alone, but for humanity as a whole. Greed does defile, but Christ's teachings and God's leanings, cleanse the impurities:

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.  He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruits.  You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.  Remain in me, as I remain in you.  Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches.  Whoever remains in me and I in him, will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.  Anyone
who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people
will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.  If you remain
in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done
for you.  By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my
disciples.  As the Father loves me, so I also love you.  Remain in my love."

 John 15:1-10; The New American Bible


Day Twenty-six (Sunday)

"For in hope we were saved.  Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. 
For who hopes for what one sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see,
we wait with endurance."

Romans 8:24-25; The New American Bible 

Hope.  I use this word so much and am learning what I think about hope.  If I say, "I hope so," I question my faith and hear myself ask, "Where is your faith?"  In the back of my mind I hear that little voice saying, "Hope???  Don't you believe?"  So I have to question myself, "What do I know of hope?"

I've learned that I've associated hope with a bit of insecurity in outcome.  For hope is a longing, a prayer, an idea held within that we seek to see manifest in our lives, or the lives of others, and sometimes, we don't know how it's going to happen at all.  And I guess this is how hope is actually quite a faith builder and becomes a complement to faith.  To have faith, we must have confidence that things will turn out for our betterment; that our prayers will be answered.  To have faith, we must know and give trust. 

This can be a difficult scenario - for sometimes what we are hoping for, doesn't manifest as we think it should, and we don't understand why it appears the way it does.  This is why faith and trust become so vital, for what we hope for is not always the best thing, which is why we have to trust that what we receive from our hope is not what we see, but what we will learn and discover - the unseen product of hope.

We may have wanted to work at that company, for it seemed to provide the security and abundance we were seeking, but later we discover the company went under and the place we are now working, the one we didn't really think about, proved to provide so much more than we ever imagined.  Or in the opposite way of thinking, we may have thought that the person we were avoiding for relationship later turns out to be the perfect partner for us.  Who would have thought?  For they certainly didn't appear the way our hopes decided they should, but what we see is not always what is. 

Hope leads us to that confidence and trust.  Hoping things work out, that someone heals, that we receive prosperity during uncertain times, to know even if the worlds economy be in a state of insecurity, we hope that the Lord will provide for us.  And why?  Because he promised.  It is his word; he is our deliverance and will abundantly shower us with his riches for maintaining our faithfulness in relationship with him.

Hoping builds our faith by building up our requests upon the Lord and how to ask.  Hopefulness strengthens our faith for it leads us into the one expectation the Lord does want us to have, that he will deliver!  Hope sends us into prayer for ourselves and more importantly for others.  Hope helps us to abandon insecurity and faithlessness.  It provides nourishment for our souls.  So hope.  Hope for all things good.

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"Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission."

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