8 November 2009: 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kings 17, 10-16; Psalm 146; Mark 12, 38-44
Jesus was sitting ‘opposite the treasury’ when he saw the widow put into one of the containers the two copper coins called “leptons” which means ‘a thin one’. It was the smallest of all coins and it was all that she had (Mark 12, 41-44; Luke 21, 1-2). Jesus said that her tiny contribution was greater than the others, for the others had given what they could spare easily enough, and but still have plenty left, while the widow had given everything.
Let me begin with a story: A monk who was traveling in the mountains found a precious stone in a stream. The next day he met another traveler who was hungry, and the monk opened his bag to share his food. The hungry traveler saw the precious stone in the monk’s bag, admired it, and asked the monk to give it to him. The monk did so without hesitation.
The traveler left, rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the jewel was worth enough to give him security for the rest of his life.
But a few days later he came back searching for the monk. When he found him, he returned the stone and said, “I have been thinking. I know how valuable this stone is, but I give back to you in the hope that you can give me something much more precious. If you can, give me what you have within you that enabled you to give me the stone.”
I have three points that would enable us to have what is more precious than a valuable stone. First, real generosity is sacrificial. The price of the gift, its cost or its size does not matter. What matters is how much of one’s spirit and sacrifice has been put into it. Fr. John P. Delaney SJ who built the Holy Sacrifice Church in UP said to the students, faculty and staff of the university to “give till it hurts.” He discouraged students from asking contributions from the rich and the politicians, because the church is for the community of UP, and the community should build it from themselves.
Second, real generosity has some kind of thoughtlessness in it. When one gives all that he or she has, she recklessly gives it. In our lives, we know that some parts of our lives, some of our activities, some aspects of ourselves are not given to Christ. We hold back something. We rarely give the final surrender. St. Ignatius gives us the Prayer of Generosity that illustrates this total selflessness, recklessness and thoughtlessness in a magnanimous heart. “Dearest Lord, teach me to be generous, teach me to serve you as you deserve, to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, save that I am doing your most holy will. Amen.”
Finally, Jesus makes a point when He makes the widow the symbol of generosity. In ancient times, the widow is an object of pity, recipients of favor because, in a patriarchal society, they do not have a protector — the males. In the Israelites’ system, the widow does not have inheritance rights. Like the widow of Zarephath, she is considered very poor. But like the widow who made a contribution, they both gave everything that they had. Thus, Jesus exalted someone who has given only a little amount into a symbol to be emulated. In our lives, we may feel that we lack in material possessions or talents, but if we put all that we have and are at the Lord’s disposal, He can do things with our lives that are beyond our imaginings.
Elizabeth Bibesco said about generosity, “Blessed are those who give without remembering and take without forgetting.”