32nd Sunday O T Year B – 15
1Kg.17:10-16; Heb.9:24-28; Mk.12:38-44
One night years ago, in a small town, a stormy rain stranded a newlywed couple on a remote country road. Unable to go any farther, they got out of their car and walked towards a dimly lit farmhouse. When they reached the house, an elderly couple, carrying a kerosene lamp, met them at the door.
Explaining their predicament, the young man asked: “Could we spend the night with you? A place on the floor or a few easy chairs will do.” The elderly couple saw the newly wedded couple and understood their predicament. “Why surely, children,” said the elderly woman.
“We just happen to have a spare bedroom. You get your things from the car while my husband and I freshen it up a bit.” Then they led them up to the room. The next morning the newlyweds got up early and prepared to leave without disturbing their host.
They dressed quietly, put a hundred dollar bill on the dresser, and tiptoed down the stairs. When they opened the door to the living room, they were aghast at what they saw. The old couple were asleep in the chairs. They’d given the newlyweds their only bedroom.
The heartwarming story is a modern illustration of the poor widow in the gospel of this 32nd Sunday of the year. Like the poor widow, the elderly couple gave not from their surplus but from the only resource they had.
Today’s readings invite us to live out a total commitment to God’s service with a humble and generous heart, free from pride and prejudice. The first reading and the Gospel today present poor widows who sacrificially gave their whole lives and means of livelihood to God, symbolizing the supreme sacrifice Jesus would offer by giving His life for others.
In the gospel, Christ praises the poor widow who drops only two small copper coins in the temple treasury, unlike the others who “put in their surplus money”. Although she was very poor, she put her last money – “all she had to live on.”
The first lesson we can learn from the gospel is you don’t have to be wealthy in order to give to charity or help people. The example of the poor widow poignantly illustrates this. There are those who say, “I’ll give when I become rich or win the lottery” or “when I receive my retirement pension.”
The question is, what if you won’t become rich at all or win the lottery? Does it mean you won’t do acts of charity anymore? Our work of love, which is the basic requirement of a true Christian, ought to be unconditional. Rich or poor, we’re called to practice charity.
The second lesson the Lord teaches is that our giving is more meaningful and meritorious when it is accompanied by some pain or sacrifice. The rich in the gospel did not have this. They gave away only what was extra or disposable. When we donate money for charity, what’s our real motive?
Is it because we want our names, our families or company’s names publicized? Do we donate to charity only because it is “tax deductible?” Do we give gifts to our boss because we want something in return like a salary raise or promotion?
If such be our motive, then our giving is self-serving; it has strings attached. Christ teaches, “When you give something to a needy person, do not make a big show of it as the hypocrites do” (Mt 6:2). It’s said that there are three kinds of givers: GRUDGE givers, DUTY givers, and LOVE givers.
Grudge givers give but do it grudgingly or reluctantly. Duty givers give with a sense of obligation. Love givers give because they want to. They do it freely and joyfully motivated by love or compassion. What kind of giver are we?
The story is told about a politician who sent a check of 1 million dollars to a charitable institution to the delight of the nuns running it. Their joy was short-lived when they saw that the check was not signed by the donor. You know, why? The donor wanted to remain anonymous!
The question you and I face is this: “Do we give God what’s left over after we’ve taken care of everything else?” Or do we give God what we’re living for? We have much, and we can give God much. We can give God our trust, our reliance upon Him, our dependence upon Him.
Take our daily efforts, for instance. Are they to accomplish our purposes or God’s purposes? They can be the same, you know. We can make our purposes God’s purposes and we can make God’s purposes our purposes. Caring for the ones you love, caring for your wife, your husband, and your children is giving your life to God.
Providing for the happiness of others is giving your life to God. Working for peace, working for justice and fairness in our world, and many other efforts is, in fact, giving your life over into God’s care. Let’s be clear about it. God isn’t interested in your money.
He has all of the riches He will ever need. No, God wants more than your money. God wants YOU. He wants your daily life. He wants to be what you depend on each day. He wants to be what you live on. Our giving to God is only giving Him back what’s already His in the first place.
But can we giving God our hearts? Ah, that’s quite something else! The gift of our heart is what He’s looking for. It’s our gift to Him each time we’re at Mass. And when we gift Him with our love, when we give Him our hearts and our lives, our interests and desires, what He will give back to us cannot be measured.
Christian sharing involves pain. There is pain in giving, so to say. On the part of the widow, we know it was painful for her to share the two small coins because she needed them very much. As the gospel says, the coins represent her whole livelihood. But still she let go of it.
Christian sharing is all about that. If we give, we give something that we also need, but then we decide to let go of it because we find that others are more in need of it. Consequently, we feel the pain. There is also joy in sharing.
To let go of something which one needs can be painful, but there is also a concomitant joy it gives us. In giving, we experience joy and fulfillment.
Often this joy cannot be fully described and explained. “The more you give, the more you receive.” But I think the joy is more caused by the fact that through giving, we have helped and we become part of the lives of these people who are recipients of our generosity.
This can be a source of our joy and fulfillment. It simply shows that indeed we are a brother and a sister to each other. A generous person is never selfish. A selfish person cannot be generous because he or she merely thinks of his/her self and his/ her needs.
A generous person goes out from the “world of the self” and he enters into the “world of others.” The poor widow demonstrates and exemplifies a true Christian sharing: pain-filled and joy-filled. Can we, like the poor widow, find the courage to share the wealth and talents we hold? Amen.