Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Lesson of the Widow - Sunday, November 8, 2009

Reflections on the Readings

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year B

Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost - November 8, 2009

By Dennis Hankins

Readings For This Sunday

Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)

God himself is a cheerful giver!  Is it not with joy he proclaims, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased?"

And we know that in his generosity he who did not spare his own Son, gave him up for us all.  Furthermore, you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)

So humbling himself, he became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.  

Jesus' interest in how people put their money into the temple treasury was not self serving.  Nor was he concerned if the offering was going to be good on this day.  His observation was much deeper and more importantly was about the inner sanctuary and its affections; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

The widow in today's gospel provides a lesson about the affections of the heart.  While the rich gave in a measured way, she on the other hand, gave with a generosity of spirit, not counting the cost, putting in everything she had.

Little is much, when God is in it.  And God was in that widow's two copper coins, so much so that she put in more than all those who contributed that day.  In the hands of Jesus, a little boys lunch fed a multitude. At his command he turned mere water into wine.  And it was only the hem of Jesus' garment a woman with an issue of blood touched and she went home healed of her illness.  Yes, little is much, when God is in it. 

Some fail to give what they could spare, while others, like this poor widow give even what they need for themselves.  It is this generosity that caught the Master's eye.  It is this kind of abandonment Elijah asked for from the widow at Zarephath in the first reading.  And it was for that widow the jar of flour and the jug of oil never ran out.  She and her son were sustained on this miracle for a whole year.  It is impossible to out give God!

It is still this kind of generosity of soul and spirit that not only gains the smile and blessing of heaven, but it puts socks and shoes on kids feet, food in hungry stomachs, fresh well water in the villages, winter coats on the backs of the homeless.  This is the spirit of Christianity and its mission of the last two thousand years.  

Like a little leaven will leaven a whole lump of dough, those who bear the name of Christ, have done what they could, wherever they could, as often as they could.  Facing the great odds against him, Fr. Damien of Molokai, walked valiantly into the dark world of lepers. And the weary masses on the streets of Calcutta met Mother Teresa. Both bathed humanity in the love of Jesus.  

Can we capture for ourselves what was in that poor widow's soul that Jesus observed?  Somehow I think this reading is not just about the ability to give courageously and generously.  Though it is that.  It is giving not just what is in our hand, but becoming bigger in forgiving, in reconciling, in reaching out our hand first, breaking the ice and being the face of Jesus.  

I told someone this week God wants to bless him.  The young man replied, "Why?"  I said, "Because you're made in his image!"  He replied, "Are you sure about that?"  "Absolutely!" I responded.  It was a little seed sown with love.  Let us not sow sparingly lest we reap sparingly.  

It is Mother Teresa who reminds us, "We cannot do great things.  We can only do little things with great love."

This is the lesson of the widow.

Let us pray: Dear Father, what love you have poured upon us that we should be called the children of God. I give you praise in the mighty name of Jesus your Son who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen. 

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