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From Our Bishops

Letter to the Diocese from Bishop Andrew

Dear Friends,

I invite you therefore, in the name of the Lord, to observe a holy Lent by self-examination, penitence, prayer, fasting and almsgiving…

These familiar words spoken by the presider at the liturgy of Ash Wednesday invite us to step into the season of Lent. I have written about prayer and fasting, and today I share a thought or two about almsgiving.

The word alms finds its root in Latin and Greek words that mean mercy and pity. To give alms is an act of charity. It is an act of love, lifting neighbour out of poverty, alleviating hunger and anxiety. It is an action that restores humanity. When we donate, when we offer our treasure to one who is in need, we announce to them: I see you.

Earlier this week, on Feb. 26, Dr. Ruth Gottesman, professor emerita at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, announced to the student body that starting in August this year, tuition would be free in perpetuity. You can see their reaction to this news: the joy, surprise and relief are palpable. The $1 billion transformational gift donated by Dr. Gottesman is a significant offering to a medical school in the poorest borough in New York City. The gift makes it possible for future students from a diversity of backgrounds, who couldn’t possibly imagine going to medical school because of the expense, to pursue their dream.

Very few of us would ever have the capacity to offer such a ginormous gift. The size, however, isn’t the matter. The matter is the action of giving without strings attached. It is about offering to help transform the lives of others. When we do so, our own lives are transformed. The gift that you place on the offering plate each Sunday morning provides hope, relief and mercy. When you donate to FaithWorks, you lift another up. When you give of your treasure to the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, you reach across borders to touch the lives of those far away.

Almsgiving is more than an obligation. It is more than a duty. Giving takes practice. And with practice comes a surprising gift in return – joy. It is a joy to give. As Paul would remind us in the Second Letter to the Corinthians, “Remember this; Whoever sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in you heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-8)

Let us continue to keep a holy Lent.

Yours in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto