You have probably heard the saying before; “Give until it hurts.” In the scriptures today we see two different examples of generosity. These two widows reveal to us deeper truths, beyond just giving until it hurts. They have experienced something profound in their hearts and that has changed their view on generosity. Let us ponder and reflect on their examples.
The 1st reading(1 Kings 17.10-16) tells us of a widow, living during a famine, who was asked to share the last of the food she had, having nothing left to eat and assuming that she would die after this last meal. The prophet Elijah offers her hope; “How would my jar of meal not be emptied and my jug of oil not fail until the rains come?” By sharing the last of what she had she received more than she could have asked for. Having no other way of providing for herself the Lord provided for her in her greatest need. By being generous with the little, the very last that she had, she opened herself to God’s generosity in trusting in Him to provide where she could not.
The Gospel(Mark 12.38-44) shows us another widow, giving out of the little she had, not so that others would see her goodness or her sacrifice or even because she had an abundance, but a gift of everything she had. She gave out of a reliance and total trust in God, having committed herself wholly to Him. Jesus recognizes her heart and the great generosity in her gift.
These widows show us that it is not about how much or how little we have, but that little acts of generosity from trusting hearts are what the Lord desires. It is not about one great act of generosity but of many little ones that come from the heart.
As Jesus noticed the gift of the widow, so too does he notice the gifts we make of ourselves to others and the trust that we place in him. It is not the gifts that these widows give that makes the difference, but the trust and reliance on God that truly expresses the goal of the Christian heart. And it is this example that should encourage us today. When we place our security in Christ he notices our sacrifice, our little gifts, and the love in our hearts with which we offer them. This is what the Lord desires, our hearts and our hopes, because he wants to fill them with the meaning and love that only he can give.
Jesus has offered himself as the greatest sacrifice, giving of himself to save those who ‘eagerly’ await him, as we hear in the letter to the Hebrews(9.24-28). Let us await him with the eagerness of these widows in today’s readings, whose examples encourage us to give of ourselves in total commitment and trust, not needing to count the cost but giving from the depths of the love in our hearts. Our ‘giving until it hurts’ turns into a ‘giving until we are filled with joy’!
I would like to finish this reflection with the thoughts of the poor widow from the Gospel (taken from a reflection that I had read in a book*). Place yourself in her thoughts:
Whenever I had any coins left over after buying my daily bread I always put them in the box at the Temple. What did I want with extra coins? The Lord was my shepherd, and he never took his eye off me. Once when I was a young wife I thought to myself that it might be nice to have a lot of extra money and beautiful clothes and a palace to live in. But then I thought, well, I can’t take any of that with me. And besides, doesn’t the whole world belong to me? Am I not one of God’s chosen people? He is enough for me. He always was.
*Excerpt taken from “The Batter Part” by John Bartunek, pg 468