Monday, March 28, 2011

What Vatican II really said about the Mass

Could this be the Mass of Vatican II?

What follows below is not a homily, nor even a talk. It is the handout I distributed at a parish talk I gave on the liturgical vision of the Second Vatican Council. This was the second talk in a series titled, “Revisiting Vatican II.”
As you can see from the disclaimer at the bottom, I did not present this handout as an indication of what should or should not happen in any particular parish. Before discussing these points, I emphasized that, whatever we think about the rites of the Mass, what is most important is our interior participation. In this regard I appeal especially to the thought of then-Cardinal Ratzinger, who regularly insisted that merely changing the external rites of the Mass will have little effect in bringing about a true liturgical renewal.
For the Holy Father, the “reform of the Reform” begins with education, with rediscovering the true “spirit of the Liturgy” – and this reform is quite distinct from “restoration” in the sense of “going back,” Ratzinger has stated on numerous occasions that it is neither possible nor desirable to “go back.” Indeed, we can only continue forward, toward the Lord, toward to consummation of all history. Yet, we may either go forward with the Pope, or without him; with Vatican II or without it. For my part, I advocate fidelity to the Holy Father and to the teachings of Vatican II – for this reason, it will be helpful to consider what the Second Vatican Council actually said about certain exterior elements of the Sacred Liturgy.
The most important thing today is that we should regain respect for the liturgy and for the fact that it is not to be manipulated. [...] That we do not seek self-fulfillment in it but rather the gift that comes from above. (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, God and the World, p. 410)

Myth vs. Fact – What did Vatican II really say about the Mass?
[quotations are from Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Vatican II document on the Liturgy]

Myth: Vatican II got rid of devotions.
Fact: Vatican II said that devotions are necessary, for the Liturgy alone cannot suffice for building up the spiritual life.
9. The sacred liturgy does not exhaust the entire activity of the Church. [...] 12. The spiritual life, however, is not limited solely to participation in the liturgy. [...] 13. Popular devotions of the Christian people are to be highly commended [...] But these devotions should be so drawn up that they harmonize with the liturgical seasons, accord with the sacred liturgy, are in some fashion derived from it, and lead the people to it, since, in fact, the liturgy by its very nature far surpasses any of them. (SC 9, 12, 13)

Myth: Vatican II got rid of Latin.
Fact: Vatican II declared that Latin is the official language of the Mass and must be maintained.
36. 1. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.
2. But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended. This will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants, according to the regulations on this matter to be laid down separately in subsequent chapters. [...]
  54. Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.  (SC 36, 54)

Myth: Vatican II called for modern music to be the norm in the Mass.
Fact: Vatican II insisted that Gregorian Chant (in Latin) must be the norm, though polyphony was also allowed.
116. The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.
But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action. (SC116)

Myth: Vatican II said that modern musical instruments (i.e. the piano, the guitar, etc.) should take the place of traditional instruments (i.e. the organ) in the Mass.
Fact: Vatican II was the first ecumenical council to declare that the pipe organ is the norm.
120. In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church's ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man's mind to God and to higher things. But other instruments also may be admitted for use in divine worship. (SC 120)

Myth: Vatican II wanted priests to start “facing the people” during Mass.
Fact: Even according to the current liturgical books, the priest should not celebrate “facing the people”.

Myth: Vatican II insisted on regularly distributing the Precious Blood (i.e. Communion from the cup).
Fact: Vatican II envisioned only certain, very limited, cases when the faithful would receive the Precious Blood.
55. The dogmatic principles which were laid down by the Council of Trent remaining intact, communion under both kinds may be granted when the bishops think fit, not only to clerics and religious, but also to the laity, in cases to be determined by the Apostolic See, as, for instance, to the newly ordained in the Mass of their sacred ordination, to the newly professed in the Mass of their religious profession, and to the newly baptized in the Mass which follows their baptism. (SC 55)

Myth: Vatican II allowed for Communion in the hand.
Fact: There is no mention of this practice in Vatican II. Pope Paul VI specifically warned that this practice could lead to a lack of belief in the Eucharist, and to a loss of reverence.
[In the inscruction Memoriale Domini of 29 May 1969, it is emphasized that the normative way of receiving Communion is on the tongue. Though Paul VI did allow for Communion in the hand, this permission was granted only because some priests and lay faithful (especially in the USA and Europe) had refused to follow the Church’s discipline and demanded Communion in the hand. It was meant as a temporary pastoral concession.]

 – It may be helpful to note Cardinal Ratzinger’s response to the question “How should we actually receive Holy Communion?” The Cardinal’s reply, in part: The signs of reverence we use have changed in the course of time. But the essential point is that our behavior should give to inner recollection and reverence an outward bodily expression. Earlier, Communion used to be received kneeling, which made perfectly good sense. Nowadays it is done standing. But this standing, too should be standing in reverence before the Lord. The attitude of kneeling ought never to be allowed to disappear from the Church.
Another question was brought forward, “Communion in the hand, or directly in the mouth?” Ratzinger’s response, I wouldn’t want to be fussy about that. (from God and the World, pgs. 409-410)

Myth: Vatican II called for the massive renovation of churches; including the removal of statues, altar rails, altars, confessionals, candle stands, etc.
Fact: The Council specifically rejected this notion. Even when certain religious articles would have to be removed, Vatican II specified that they must be disposed of with great dignity.
125. The practice of placing sacred images in churches so that they may be venerated by the faithful is to be maintained. Nevertheless their number should be moderate and their relative positions should reflect right order. [...] 126. Ordinaries must be very careful to see that sacred furnishings and works of value are not disposed of or dispersed; for they are the ornaments of the house of God. (SC 125, 126)

Myth: Vatican II intended to drastically change the Liturgy.
Fact: What was called for was a process of organic growth – slow and gentle modifications and reforms, always maintaining the same essential reality.
21. In order that the Christian people may more certainly derive an abundance of graces from the sacred liturgy, holy Mother Church desires to undertake with great care a general restoration of the liturgy itself. [...] 23. Finally, there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing. (SC 4, 21, 23)

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger comments on the liturgical reforms which took place after Vatican II:
One of the weaknesses of the postconciliar liturgical reform can doubtless be traced to the armchair strategy of academics, drawing up things on paper which, in fact, would presuppose years of organic growth. (from Feast of Faith, p. 81)

Disclaimer: I am by no means indicating what should or should not be done in parishes today. Rather, this “myth vs. fact” sheet is simply an indication of what the Second Vatican Council actually said about the Mass. Like any faithful Catholic, I would most certainly hope that we would not reject the teachings and vision which Vatican II has given us – therefore, I take the above quotations very seriously.

It is not what we would like the Council to have said that must determine our course, but what the Council really said. (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Salt of the Earth, p. 261)

Because salvation is from the Jews: How Judaism and Christianity differ from every other religion, Sermon of March 27th

3rd Sunday of Lent, Year A
March 27th, 2011
John 4:5-42

Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”

The woman of Samaria is a type for all humanity – in her the whole human race is mystically present. And what is the first thing we learn about this woman? That she is thirsty. She has a physical thirst. This thirst is indicative of the thirst which all people have – a thirst for something more, something beyond themselves; it is a thirst for happiness and fulfillment. All human beings have a deep longing. We are not complete and whole in ourselves: it is what Dorothy Day called “the long loneliness;” St. Augustine spoke of the restless heart.

All of us have this longing, this desire for fulfillment. The woman was thirsting, and in her thirst she went to well of Jacob. The Samaritan woman seeks to satiate this inner longing with natural water; in this we are meant to recognize the human inclination to seek consolation and fulfillment in the things of this life. As the woman went to the well, all too often we seek fulfillment in worldly delights and natural consolations.
But, coming to the well and looking for natural water, the woman finds the Lord. Christ was there, waiting for her to come. She was not so much seeking him directly, as seeking satiation from her thirst – but, of course, the only true fulfillment will come from Christ. God alone can bring true joy to the human heart.
And here we have something upon which we might reflect: Do we seek our consolations and our joys more in the Lord or in the world? Where is our delight – in prayer or in earthly vanities? Now I do not intend to claim that we must utterly reject the world, or that we must take no joy whatsoever in the world. Rather, we rejoice first and foremost in the Lord, and then we take joy in other realities insofar as they are gifts from God. In this manner, even worldly delights lead us back to God and to the hope of heaven.
You will have to take my word for it, but I can testify that those who find consolation in the Lord alone above all else, these also are able to take greater joy in the world than any others. I am thinking especially of cloistered nuns – you have never met people so joyful, so happy, and quite frankly so delightful as nuns who have left the world and chosen the life of quiet contemplation!

So, the woman of Samaria was thirty, in her thirst she sought natural water, but ultimately she found that her true joy and fulfillment could come only from the Lord. Up to this point, the story goes as we might expect.
However, there is an important element which must be stressed: Christ was also thirsty. Notice, Who is it who speaks first? It is Christ! The Lord first asks for water, and only later does he direct the woman to ask him for living water. The Good Jesus was thirsty too, and we may even go so far as to say that his thirst was the more intense. Yes, Christ had a natural thirst for water; but even more he had a spiritual thirst for the salvation of souls, and for the salvation of this woman in particular. This is why Christ said to the woman, Give me a drink; he desired her faith and her love. Our Savior thirsts for communion with us, so that we might not perish but might have eternal life.

This is what is so unique about Judaism and Christianity: We affirm that God so loves us as to even thirst for our salvation. God thirsts for souls, he thirsts for our salvation! The Good Lord loved us so much that he sent his own Son to die for us. And Christ, our God, he so thirsts for our salvation that he did not hesitate to endure every suffering in order that we might respond to his love.
This is the unique aspect of revealed religion: God thirsts for the human race. Every other religion witnesses to the thirst that humanity has for God – and every natural religion is a testimony to the human search for the divine. But only Judaism and Christianity have taught that God thirsts for man; that God is like a shepherd who goes out in search of the lost sheep.

Allah of Islam does not love humanity, nor less does he thirst for humanity. Allah would never become man in order to die for us. Precisely this doctrine of Christianity is what is most intolerable to Muslims: That God would humble himself and even die for us, out of love.
Moreover, the gods of the Eastern religions and cults have no love whatsoever for humanity. They do not thirst for you, they do not love you.
No, these other religions are signs of the yearning which human beings have for God, but they never attain to the highest teachings revealed to the Jews and then, through Christ, shared in the Church.

This is why Christ said to the woman of Samaria, Salvation is from the Jews. For it was first to the Jews that God revealed his love for the human race. This revelation was fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ – and, through him, all people now have access to salvation.
Think on this: God thirsts for you, God loves you, God desires communion with you. Mother Teresa once said, “Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you – you can’t begin to know who he wants to be for you. Or who he wants you to be for him.”

Thursday, March 24, 2011

How to persevere through Lent, Sermon of March 20th

2nd Sunday of Lent, Year A
March 20th, 2011
Matthew 17:1-9

Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them.

Perhaps we might consider why it is that here, on the second Sunday of Lent, the Church gives us the Gospel account of the Transfiguration of our Lord. It may not be immediately apparent to us, but if we consider the meaning of the historical event for the disciples, we will quickly understand how our reflection on the Transfiguration will aid us in our Lenten discipline.

First, what was the significance of the Transfiguration for the Apostles? Notice that the event happened near the end of Christ’s public ministry – it is recorded late in Matthew’s Gospel, in the 17th chapter. Early on, the Lord’s preaching was very successful – wherever he went, many people converted and nearly all accepted him. Of course, the Apostles were very excited in those early days.
But then, there is a change. At a certain point, our Savior begins to look toward Jerusalem, to focus more and more on the suffering and death that awaited him in the Holy City. This transition – from those early, happy years to the last period of rejection – hinges upon the Transfiguration.

Our Savior had just told the disciples that he would suffer and die, that the Cross was coming. But the Apostles could scarcely bare this news. They feared the Cross, they were terrified at the thought of persecution. And so, Christ needed to give them comfort and strength.
For this reason, he took Peter, James and John apart from the others and led them up the mountain. Now, as soon as we hear it is these three, our minds ought to move forward to that other time these three were separated from the rest – on that night in Gethsemane, when our Lord suffered his great agony in the garden. The whole event of the Transfiguration is a preparation for the suffering which is soon to come – Christ seeks to strengthen at least these three, so that they might remain faithful through the Passion.

But, as our Lord is transfigured before them, St. Peter cries out, “Lord, it is good that we are here … Let’s build some tents!” You see, Peter talks too much. J
The Prince of the Apostles speaks with the comprehension of a child – he cannot even begin to comprehend the mystery he beholds, for he is distracted by the fact that it is shiny. Peter considers the Transfiguration beautiful simply because it is bright.
If Peter had been more reflective, he may have noticed that it was Moses and Elijah who appeared on either side of our Savior – the two men who perhaps bore more suffering and hardship than any others in the Old Testament. Moses, who was so often rejected by his own people and who died in the desert. Elijah, who was hated by the political and religious authorities of his day – who alone stood up against the darkness of hell which raged in the time of King Ahaz.

Christ is transfigured before Peter, James and John; he shows them the glory of the Resurrection. The Savior does this in order that they might be encouraged, that they might not lose heart. Christ knows that the Passion will be a great scandal to his disciples, he knows that it will be difficult and that they will be filled with sorrows – but he desires that they should not despair, that they should not lose hope, but instead might remain faithful to him to the end.
But, alas, we know that James fled with the others, he abandoned the Lord. Peter was even worse – the man who had said, “Let us build tents and remain here with you,” when persecutions came not only abandoned the Lord, but denied his Savior saying, “I swear to you, I do not know the man.”
Only John remained faithful. The disciple who was most reflective, and even contemplative. John is quiet, reserved, steeped in prayer. And he alone, from among the Apostles, he alone stood by our Christ at the foot of his Cross. The mystery of the Transfiguration had already penetrated the heart of the Beloved Disciple, strengthening him against all adversity, giving him hope in the midst of terrible suffering.

Christ was transfigured in order that the Apostles might persevere through suffering and so come to the glory of Easter. It is for this reason also that the Church gives us to meditate upon the Transfiguration now. For we yet have a long time till Easter – there is much of Lent through which he have yet to pass.
For some, it may come as a surprise that we are only in the second week of Lent. “The second week?” you say, “Surely, we have made it to the forth of fifth week by now!” No, indeed, we are still only in the second week, and, what is worse, this Sunday is only the first day in the second week! J 
Only through imitating the prayerful nature of John will we be able to find the strength necessary to pass through Lent. We must meet Christ, transfigured and in glory – but it is only in our life of prayer that we can find him thus transfigured. Our daily meditation is the time when Christ is leading us up the mountain, to encourage us, to give us strength, and to show us his glory.

We have quite a ways to go this Lent. But the Church, as a good and loving Mother, does not want us to be discouraged. So, today, she gives us this small foretaste in the Resurrection. She raises our hearts and minds to the contemplation of Easter glory – for the Transfiguration is a participation in the glory which awaits us all in life everlasting.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

We fast during Lent because we have sinned, Sermon of March 13th

1st Sunday of Lent, Year A.
March 13, 2011
Romans 5:12-19

For if, by the transgression of the one [i.e. Adam], death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one Jesus Christ.

It is both with a certain anticipation and joy as well as with something of a nervous apprehension that we enter into the Season of Lent. We have joy and even excitement because we know that the Good Lord always has so many blessings in store for us during this holy Season. Moreover, even now, we begin to look ahead the full six weeks, preparing ourselves for the great feast of Easter.
Yet, if we are honest, there is probably also some struggle as we begin Lent. Perhaps already, just five days into the Season of Penance, we have begun to wiggle a little bit on our Lenten fast. Indeed, we may have even considered that very difficult and intricate question: What exactly constitutes candy? J

Certainly, there is something in the spirit of the modern world and even of the modern Catholic world, that makes it difficult for us to enter into Lent. And what might that be? What is it about Lent that is so hard for the modern man?
I suppose that many would reply that it is fasting which is most difficult. However, I would offer that the modern secular world has a great respect, and perhaps even a reverence for a certain sort of fasting. Consider the diet craze – the way that so many celebrities and even common folk, discipline their bodies and undergo intense mortifications in order to look fashionable. Yes, there is, in fact, a great deal of self-denial in the modern world, but it is lacks the Christian character that is required for the Lenten Fast.
Speaking with the children at our Catholic grade school, I made this little comparison in the form of a question. I asked the children whether they thought that this would be a true fast: To give up dinner, to fast from the evening meal (something that requires a good bit of self-denial); but to do so only in order to eat an exceptionally large dessert. The children all quite emphatically told me that this wouldn’t be much of a fast at all! And, of course, they were right.
More than mere self-denial is required in order to have a Christian fast – there also has to be the proper interior disposition. This, I think, is what the world has such a hard time with: The reason behind Christian fasting.

And why do Christians fast? Why do we fast during Lent? We fast because we are sinners. We take up our Lenten discipline, because we have sinned and have rejected the God who is Love.
For the Christian, the Lenten Fast is a recognition of the reality of sin – both sin in itself, and also our cooperation in sin. If we do not understand the reality of sin, we will never understand the mystery of Lent. But if we lose Lent, we will also lose Easter. Without sin there is no redeemer, and without Lent there is no Easter.
This is why, in the first two readings of today’s Mass, the Church gives us to meditate upon the Fall of Adam. We begin Lent by considering the first sin – and also the original sin which we all inherit through our fallen nature.
But, of course, there is more than just that one sin of Adam; for, as St. Paul reminds us, the one transgression led to many other sins – and we have all participated actively in the reign of sin. If we are at all honest with ourselves, we know that we have sinned.

But we Christians don’t stop here. No, having admitted our sins, we confess also that Christ has come as our Redeemer. This is what proves the Love of God: That while we were yet in sin, Christ loved us and gave himself for us. Though we continue to struggle with sin and temptation, Christ does not abandon us.
But if we deny sin, we will end up denying the greatness of God’s Love. If we forget about sin, we also forget about redemption – and we lose sight of our Redeemer.

I often hear people say something like this, “Oh father, I am basically a good person.” Or, “I don’t really commit any sins. I really don’t have anything to take to confession.”
Far too often we pretend that we are sinless, or at least that we are not that bad. But I say, Look to the Crucifix! Look upon Christ, hanging dead on the Cross! That is what it took to save you and me! You and I are so wretched, so steeped in sin, that God himself had to become man and die in order to save us! If we are all so holy, so perfect through our own works; how is it that Jesus Christ, who is all good and all holy, how is it that he was offered up to a horrendous death in order that we might not suffer eternal death?
No, my brothers and sisters, this will not due. We must admit our sinfulness, we must confess our need for Christ’s redemption. This admission of sin does not leave us in despair or gloom; rather, we are then able to affirm the infinite Love and Mercy of God!

This is what Lent is really all about – It is a time of repentance. A time to turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel. We take up our fast as an acknowledgement of our sins; but as we feel the physical hunger brought on by our Lenten discipline, we recall that our deepest hunger is only satisfied in the Love and Mercy of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Build your house on rock through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Sermon of March 6th

9th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
March 6th, 2011
Matthew 7:21-27

Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.

When a professor is teaching a class, it happens on occasion that the students may not be paying attention. There is, I am told, one thing which the teacher can do, one thing which works for students from around the 5th grade all the way up through to graduate school – the teacher or professor can regain the students’ attention by saying these simple words, “This will be on the exam.”
All of a sudden, the students perk up and are paying attention. They are taking notes and even checking with their classmates to make sure that they didn’t miss anything. I teach the 7th and 8th graders at our Catholic grade school, and I have never had to threaten with an exam yet – but, I hear it is something worth considering…

On a much more profound level, something like this occurs in today’s Gospel. Christ our Savior has come to the end of the Sermon on the Mount, the longest and most complete discourse on Christian morality; and he wants to make sure that we are all paying attention. For this reason he tells us, “This will be on the exam, this makes a difference for the final judgment.”
The Good Lord directs our hearts and minds to the final days, to judgment, to Heaven and Hell. “On that day,” he says, many will come and will cry out; but I will reject them, for they did not follow my commands. The teachings of the Sermon on the Mount are necessary for our salvation.

Perhaps we are a bit afraid when we think of the final judgment and the second coming of our Savior. Indeed, there is something terrifying and great about the end of time – for on that day, each of us will answer for our doings, whether good or evil. Moreover, we recall that Fear of the Lord is a gift of the Holy Spirit – it is the beginning of wisdom. It is good to fear the Lord.
However, the fear that we have ought not to be the fear of a slave, terrified that his master will beat him. Nor, less, should it be the fear of a dog, expecting punishment from his owner. No, rather the fear we have is the fear of a child who wants only to please his father.
We fear lest we should disappoint the God who has so loved us. Recognizing the goodness and the love of God, we fear lest we may separate ourselves from that Love through sin. We fear lest we should be separated from him who has so loved us.

Christ’s words are challenging, and perhaps even a little bit scary; but remember that the Good Jesus only wants you to be happy! That is what this is all about: Beatitude, eternal happiness, and joy even in this life. Thus, even the challenging teachings of the Sermon on the Mount – that we must love our enemies, that we must not have lust or anger in our hearts, that we must be free from attachment to worldly possessions since we cannot serve God and mammon – even these challenging teachings have been given for our benefit. Christ challenges us because he wants us to be happy with him, both here on earth and forever in heaven.

It is for this reason that the Good Lord tells us to build our house on solid rock, not on sand. The house is the soul, and the rock is Christ, but the sand is the passing delights of the flesh. We build our house by seeking after either the delights of heaven or the momentary gratifications of earth. We build our house by either following the commands of Jesus, or ignoring our Lord’s words and seeking pleasure.
If we seek our consolation and delight in the things of earth, these things which are passing away, we build our house on sand. And it is fitting that we compare this to building on sand; for just as sand passes through the grip of the fingers, so too the pleasures of this life pass away swiftly and are gone. If we think rarely of heaven, if we focus all our energy on the duties and demands of this life, we are fools who build on sand – our house will not stand long.

How then do we build our house on solid rock? How do we found our soul upon Christ?
This is to find joy and consolation in the Lord and in the hope of heaven. Next week, we begin the season of Lent, a time to re-found ourselves on Christ as our true rock. We build our house upon Christ through these three Lenten practices: Prayer, fasting and almsgiving. All three are necessary, together they will give us supernatural joy in this life, and eternal happiness in the life to come.

First, we consider prayer. Lent is a time of prayer, focusing on the things of heaven. Do you want to go to heaven when you die? Then ask the Lord for this grace! Every day, ask the Lord to bring you to heaven! Ask also for the graces needed to get you through the next day in the state of grace.
But we must also meditation – for how can we ask anything from the Lord, if we do not have a solid relationship with him? We must meditate daily on the mysteries of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. Daily meditation is necessary for salvation. During Lent, we have the opportunity to focus particularly upon the mysteries surround our Savior’s passion and death. Think of how much Christ loved you – he loved you so much that he died for you! Will he not give you everything else besides?

Then there is fasting. This is most necessary, for fasting is the body’s way of participating in prayer. We often pretend like we do not have bodies, we forget about the importance of fasting and mortification. The body works for our salvation too! It is not enough simply to pray with our minds – we need also to fast.
Remember, fasting is easy when done out of love. Christ became hungry out of love for you, will you not hunger for love of him?

Finally, there is almsgiving. Almsgiving covers a multitude of sins, and therefore is central to the mystery of Lent. Almsgiving can be part of an expression of sorrow for sin, especially during this time of repentance.
Moreover, almsgiving helps us to grow in charity. It frees us from mammon and opens us to the Lord. Simply put, without almsgiving we cannot be saved. Unless we love our neighbor and, especially, the poor; how can we ever hope to have a true love for Christ Jesus?