by Father Mark Goldasich
It wouldn’t be an official Lent for me without the Rice Bowl.
Dutifully, I assemble that little cardboard bowl from Catholic Relief Services and put it on my kitchen table. Then, I proceed to cheat the poor.
Don’t get me wrong, I do put money into the bowl. But nowhere near as much as I’m capable of contributing.
Sadly, I resemble the guy in this story:
A man once approached Peter Marshall, the former chaplain of the U.S. Senate, and said, “I have a problem. I’ve been tithing for some time. It wasn’t too bad when I was making $20,000 a year; I could afford to give up $2,000. But now that I’m making $500,000, there’s no way I can afford to give away $50,000 a year.”
Marshall replied, “Yes, sir. I see that you have a problem. I think we ought to pray about it. Is that all right?”
After the man agreed, Marshall bowed his head and prayed, “Dear Lord, this man has a problem, and I pray that you will help him. Please reduce his salary back to the place where he can afford to tithe.” (Found in “1001 Illustrations That Connect,” edited by Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof.)
Whoa! Why is it that the more we’re blessed by the Lord, the stingier we become? We don’t usually think twice about spending freely on something we want for ourselves, yet only reluctantly and “frugally” do we reach out to relieve the pressing needs of others.
The good news is we don’t have to wait until Lent to change our ways. We have an opportunity to become more generous stewards in just a week, when we celebrate World Mission Sunday in our parishes. But Pope Francis knows that, as Christians, we can’t limit our generosity to just one Sunday in church. That’s why he’s making it easy to remember the poor, no matter where we find ourselves. (The pope is sneaky that way.)
Pope Francis realizes that most of us in the First World are glued to our smartphones and tablets. So, why not make use of this incredible technology to effortlessly do good for those not so fortunate in terms of food, water, education or health care?
Since you’ve probably got your digital device nearby, head over to page 8 of this issue and follow the instructions to scan that photo of Pope Francis. Then prepare to be amazed at all the opportunities now at your fingertips to help people from Puerto Rico to South Sudan to the Philippines. Each project shown there, sponsored by the Pontifical Mission Societies, includes pictures, a detailed description and a monetary goal. Best of all, there’s a button where you can donate immediately (before you change your mind).
For example, I found a project to bring clean water to a parish in Nyeri, Kenya. I actually stayed in that town for a few days back in 1980 when I arrived in Africa to work for a summer as a deacon. How could I not contribute to building a new well to bring safe water to that community?
After pushing the “Donate Now” button, I set up an account in just a couple of minutes, plugged in my credit card info and zap! — $25 was on its way to this project instantaneously.
Just for “fun,” try out this no-sweat, online giving to the missions. Start small (so you don’t give yourself a heart attack by being too generous all at once). The next time you’re out to eat, for example, go ahead and enjoy a glass of wine. Then, once it arrives, send a corresponding amount of money to the missions.
Or maybe forego an appetizer or a dessert and instead zap that amount via your smartphone. It won’t be rude to do it right there at the table. Your dining partners will forgive you . . . and maybe you can coax a donation out of them as well.
That’s probably why the pope is smiling on page 8: He knows that donating at the speed of life will do a world of good.