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Brother John Raymond tells how to make Advent fasting more fruitful for yourself — and for the poor.
BY BROTHER JOHN RAYMOND
December since 1979, Larry Stewart has been quietly roaming the streets of
Kansas City, Mo., handing out money to people in need.
It all began when Larry was
feeling sorry for himself. For the second year in a row, he’d been fired from
his job soon before Christmas. He pulled into a drive-in restaurant, the kind
with “car-hop” wait staff. The woman who waited on him was shivering. It was
clear she was wanting for a winter coat.
Even though he was down on his
luck himself, Larry gave the waitress a $20 bill for the food and told her to
keep the change, which was far in excess of his order. She began crying and
expressing how much Larry’s random act of kindness meant to her.
Later that day, he went to the
bank, took out $200 and began looking for people to give to. He started with
this modest amount but, as the years passed, his own fortune grew into the
Lately he has been handing out
$100 bills. It was only recently, after being treated for cancer, that he
allowed the media to release his identity.
Larry Stewart was doing what all
Christians should be doing during Advent and Christmas: seeking out and helping
those in need.
Remember that Jesus, the Christ,
the Son of God, came into a world that was cold in more ways than one. The
night air must have been frosty in Bethlehem.
They didn’t know what the “wind chill factor” was in that time and place, but
they surely knew what it felt like to have no shelter on a winter night. There
they were, poor, needy and expecting, and nobody was willing to give up a spot
for them indoors.
No wonder Advent has been called a
“Little Lent.” Fasting is part of it, or ought to be. And there are many
reasons and benefits to fasting. One aspect of fasting I believe lost to modern
society is the idea of giving.
Giving what? The money saved by
our fasting. This is what those great early teachers and saints of the Church,
the Church Fathers, encouraged the faithful to do.
A simple example that comes to
mind is restaurant dining. Many people eat out at least weekly, if not daily.
Why not fast from a restaurant meal once a week? Take the money saved by this
and help someone in need. This would even be better if done as a family. Many
of the saints involved their children in works of charity.
Or, instead of expecting a gift at
Christmas, why not ask family members and friends to donate whatever amount
they would have spent on you to a worthy charity — one whose mission is in accord
with the Church’s teachings? That way you’re helping the charity and witnessing
your faith to the giver at the same time.
Giving money to needy people was
Larry Stewart’s Christmas present to himself. It was the gift that, he found,
gave him the greatest sense of satisfaction.
I’m suggesting that we follow his
example by giving a Christmas present to Jesus, who said, “Amen, I say to you,
whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me”
Let’s not leave Jesus out in the
cold this Advent and Christmas but, instead, invite him inside — into the best
and warmest room we can prepare for him.
Brother John Raymond is co-founder of the Community of the Monks of
in Venice, Florida.