The Anchoress is in Full-Tilt Lenten Reflection Mode, so it’s a good time to make it a daily read if you aren’t already a daily reader.
Today she’s got an excellent reflection on Hypocrisy, considering all that’s been on the news lately. Here’s a bit I found worth repeating here:
When I was a little girl we Catholics were taught to spend some time before bed each night in an “examination of conscience,” which may be plainly thought of as a review of our day in light of the Ten Commandments, but of course can go much deeper than that. People talk of “Catholic guilt,” but I think of it as “Catholic consciousness” – of a way for us to remain “in balance,” and to maintain our grasp, however lightly we may, on the fact that we all have moments when we are complete asshats.
That self-awareness may be the thing that can keep us humble, so that we don’t fall so easily into the scandalous sin of hypocrisy, which never helps any cause.
When I was single, I used to spend time in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. I used to take the late-night shifts, usually from 1-2 AM or 2-3 AM, as I was coming back from work around those times (the rigors of a graduate student). Those are the tough hours (and I completely sympathize with Peter, James & John falling asleep at Gethsemane) and it was a constant struggle to stay awake for the full hour. But I could always last a half-hour before the struggle, and the reflection on life, religion, faith and virtue was always worthwhile. I think that’s why I had such a hard time the second half of the hour– finding truth in meditation brings peace and calm, and that’s when we sleep the best.
Unfortunately I am now in a different phase of life. I have two young children and everything now circles around work and raising them. The time for personal reflection is often overridden by the overwhelming need for sleep (which is in short supply lately). I find I miss those hours of dedicated reflection. If you’re a young single Catholic I’d highly recommend signing up for one or two hours a week.
One lesson I learned in my meditations was on charity (which was stirred by the Anchoress‘ post). Charity is giving of yourself to others, be it time, talent, or treasure. When I give, I don’t expect anything in return. If I start getting materials in return, especially if I expect such rewards, then I am no longer participating in charity, but business. Recently I received the notice from my local parish about our giving. Evidently, you can deduct this from your taxes. Unfortunately, doing so completely invalidates your act of charity, because there is no sacrifice.
When we give, the gift has to be a sacrifice. If we give of excess, it is not a sacrifice. If we give of ourselves, but expect repayment, then it is a loan, not a sacrifice. Reporting charitable donations as tax deductions means you are expecting those monies back in the form of a tax-break. I don’t think that’s what the Lord had in mind when he said “give to the poor.”
Charity is giving of self. And if we do so willingly, happily, and generously, then our reward is grace, and that is far more valuable than a deduction on your 1040.