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Lenten Reflection: Giving Freely Without Expecting a Return

March 11, 2024

From the Office for Social Ministry

To embrace the cross is...joining in the mission of Jesus to bring ‘good news to the poor … to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed. It is to truly touch the wound of that brother, that community, who has a name, who has an infinite value for God, to bring him light, to strengthen his legs, to cleanse his misery, to offer him the opportunity to respond to the plan of love the Lord has for him.” Pope Francis Message to Church Aid in Latin America - March 2024

As we journey together this Lenten season, Pope Francis has urged all to reflect and act on a deeper understanding of the values of charity and service. Our Holy Father sent a message to a meeting of church humanitarian aid and development organizations (such as Catholic Relief Services-CRS) involved in Latin America. The papal message focused on the theme of “gratuitousness” which stems from the Latin word gratuitus––“given freely.” The Pope pointed out that often institutions and individuals, while doing charitable works of mercy, can forget the Gospel call to “give freely.” Our Holy Father challenged all in Lent to look beyond the data involved in charitable aid to the deeper values of Christian giving: “When we make an effort, as in the case of the aid destined for the Church in Latin America, it is natural that we expect a result. To not obtain it would be considered a failure or would at least leave us with the feeling of having worked in vain. But a perception of this kind would be contrary to gratuitousness, which is evangelically defined as giving without expecting anything in return.” Drawing from the Gospel, this concept of unconditional giving is one of the main teachings that Jesus delivered during his Sermons which spoke of the miracle of selfless generosity. The Pope encourages us to meditate on the many ways God has shown us unconditional love. “It is very simple: always, and totally. God does not set limits: we sin a thousand times, He forgives us a thousand times. He waits in the silent solitude of the Tabernacle for us to return to Him, begging for His love.” He also reminds us that when we have received such gifts of love and forgiveness freely, we are then able to give the same to others more freely. “Gratuitousness is imitating the way in which Jesus gives Himself for us, His people, always and totally, despite our poverty. And why? Out of love.” And this giving freely has lasting results.