In the first reading from the book of Kings we hear the story of the widow, whom Elijah meets in the town of Sodom, which is experiencing a famine. Now the prophet requests her for a little water and a meal. The widow has only a little left for herself and her son. The widow does not first ask: "Will you ask God for a special blessing on me if I give you this meal?" She is just ready to give up everything and die! Her total generosity is blessed by God's equally generous gift: she will never more know need. We can never outdo our God in generosity. Everything we give comes back to us in double measure, though the motive of our giving should not be that we should receive with interest! That would be business!
You are welcome!
One night years ago a cloudburst stranded a newly-wed couple on a remote country road. Unable to go any further, they got out of their car and set out on foot towards a dimly lit farmhouse. When they reached the farmhouse, an elderly couple carrying a kerosene lamp met them at the door. Explaining their predicament, the young man asked: "Could you put us up till morning? A place on the floor or a few easy chairs would be fine." Just then a few grains of rice slipped from the young lady's hair and fell to the floor. The elderly couple glanced down at it and exchanged a knowing glance. "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." The next morning the newly-weds got up early and prepared to leave without disturbing the elderly couple. They dressed quietly, put a ten-dollar bill on the dresser, and tiptoed down the stairs. When they opened the door to the living room, they found the old couple asleep in chairs. They had given the newly-weds their only bedroom. The young man had his wife wait a minute while he tiptoed back upstairs and put another five dollars on the dresser.
In the Gospel we see Jesus teaching his disciples about the observances of the law especially about the temple rituals and practices. The purpose of the law was that people should show reverence and respect to God, but the Pharisees observed all the practices of the law to be seen, to be noticed, to attract attention to themselves and their good deeds. Jesus then points out the action of the poor widow. While the rich are perhaps attracting a lot of attention because of their large donations, she unobtrusively drops two small coins. No one even notices, her donation is too small to be worth counting, but Jesus notices. He makes her the object of his teaching on giving. "I tell you this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury; for they put in money they had over, but she from the little that she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on." In the eyes of God it is not quantity that counts. God is not impressed by how much we give. We do not need to have much in order to give, but we have to have a generous heart. We all have moments when we are called upon to sacrifice something. Sometimes we make it a point to tell others what sacrifices we have made. Yet when we love people deeply we do not count it as sacrifice. A mother who loves her children does not remind them: "See I am making this sacrifice for you!" She just does it silently because of her great love for her children. On the other hand people who are sensitive appreciate every little gift, every little kindness done by their loved ones. In love there is no big thing or small thing. The smallest gesture can assume great importance in the context of love. Our God is the God of small people and small things!
You may have heard the story of God's Juggler. In the middle ages a juggler was juggling his coloured balls and pins in the market place when some monks came by. The juggler expressed his desire to be a monk. The monks said, "What can you do?" The juggler replied, "I juggle". The monks said, "Well, you will have to change your ways." The juggler became Brother Lawrence in the monastery. Years passed and one Christmas the monks decided that each one would present a masterpiece to the infant Jesus. All but Lawrence came up with an idea. On Christmas eve, Lawrence locked himself in the church. The monks thought he had gone mad. They ran up the choir loft and looked down. There was Lawrence juggling before the crib scene. They were going to go down and seize him as one gone berserk. But as Lawrence finished his juggling, the monks saw the infant in the manger reach out with a smile. Lawrence had given his all.
When giving becomes a sacrifice
Mother Teresa told a story of how one day she was walking down the street when a beggar came up to her and said, "Mother Teresa everybody is giving to you, I also want to give to you. Today for the whole day I got only thirty cents. I want to give it to you." Mother Teresa thought for a moment: "If I take the thirty cents, he will have nothing to eat tonight, and if I don't take it I will hurt his feelings. So I put out my hands and took the money. I have never seen such joy on anybody's face as I saw on the face of that beggar at the thought that he too could give to Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa went on: "It was a big sacrifice for that poor man, who had sat in the sun the whole day and received only thirty cents. Thirty cents is such a small amount and I can get nothing with it, but as he gave it up and I took it, it became like thousands because it was given with so much love. God looks not at the greatness of the work, but at the love with which it is performed."
Flor McCarthy in 'New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies'
The God of small things
In a certain art gallery a small picture was hanging in the hallway, close to the main door. Most visitors passed by with scarcely a glance in its direction, as they hurried on to the paintings which made the museum a Mecca for art lovers. The curator of the museum was very disappointed. He thought very highly of the little painting. So he decided to carry out a small experiment. One night he took the picture and hung it in a crooked manner. And what happened? Next day one out of two visitors stopped to look at it. The following night the curator decided to take his experiment one step further. He removed the painting altogether, leaving only the empty frame hanging there. And what happened? Everybody without exception stopped before the empty frame. And several went to the curator and asked. 'What happened to the lovely little painting that used to hang there?" - Do we notice the small things in daily life?
Flor McCarthy in 'New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies'
Giving from your need!
There was a vixen who had three cubs. On one occasion she fell sick and so she had to send the cubs one night to search for food. She told them to split up and go in different directions. The first cub was strong but very lazy, he chose the easiest route. He set off eastwards across flat land and found himself in a field stirring with rabbits. He killed one and ate it, then killed another and made off home with it. He was home in half an hour without a scratch on him. Seeing the rabbit his mother exclaimed, "What a fine rabbit you've brought back. Well done!" The second cub was clever, he headed westwards across rolling fields. Seeing the lights of a farm house he approached it, finding a hole in the fence he entered and killed two geese and dragged them away. When at a safe distance he ate half of one, the other half he buried, determined to come back the next day to finish it. He was home in half an hour with the other goose, having taken care to wash the blood off himself in a stream. "Well done!" his mother said. "What a splendid goose you've brought back." The third cub was weak and sickly but he had no other choice than to go northwards into hilly country. Here the farm houses were few but well guarded. As he passed one of the dogs tore his face through the wire and an angry farmer shot at him narrowly missing him. The night went quickly, there was nothing to do but to head home. On the way home he managed to catch a sparrow. Though he was ready to collapse from exhaustion and hunger, he decided to take it home to his mother. He got back home covered with mud, cuts and bruises. On seeing him his mother asked, "What kept you?" "I ran into trouble" he answered feebly. "And what have you brought home? With that the cub produced the sparrow. The two other cubs burst out laughing, ridiculing him. "Take it away from here and get out of my sight. Obviously I wasted my time feeding and caring for you" said his mother. -In one sense the mother was right. Judged by results the little cub had come a long way behind the other two. But in another sense the mother couldn't have been more wrong. Judged by the effort made and the spirit shown, the little cub was way ahead of the others. The little cub reminds us of the widow in today's Gospel. We live in a world in which results are the only thing that matters. Prizes and certificates are given for results, never for efforts. But Jesus has a different yardstick. For him it is not the size of the offering that counts, but the cost of it. In other words, it's not the result that counts, but the effort made and the spirit shown.
Flor McCarthy in 'New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies'
Someone to divide with
At the turn of the century, a man wrote in his diary the story of a young newsboy he met on a street near his home in London. It was well known in the neighbourhood that the boy was an orphan. All attempts to place the boy in either an institution or a foster home were thwarted, because the boy refused each offer of help and ran away when attempts were made to confine him. "I can take care o' myself jest fine, thank ye!" he would say to kindly old ladies who questioned whether he'd had his porridge that day. Indeed, he never looked hungry and his persistence at selling papers, load after load, gave the impression he spoke the truth. But the streets are a lonely place for a child to live, and the man's diary reflects a conversation he had with the child about his living arrangements. As he stopped to buy his paper one day, the man bought a little extra time by fishing around in his pocket for coins and asked the boy where he lived. He replied that he lived in a little cabin in an impoverished district of the city near the river bank. This was something of a surprise to the man. With more interest, he inquired, "well, who lives with you?" The boy answered, "Only Jim. Jim is crippled and can't do no work. He's my Pal." Now clearly astounded that the child appeared to be supporting not only himself but also someone who was unable to contribute any income the man noted," you'd be better off without him?" The answer came with not a little scorn- a sermon in a nutshell: "No sir, I couldn't spare Jim. I wouldn't have nobody to go home to. An' say, mister, I wouldn't want to live and work with nobody to divide with, would you?"
Alice Gray in 'Stories for the Heart'
I had a college student who was a victim of cerebral palsy. He was able to walk, but with great difficulty as his legs and arms would fly in all directions, out of control of the motor impulses which make walking a normally simple task. His speech was slurred, slow and agonizing, demanding great concentration on the part of the listener to understand. There was nothing wrong with his mind, however, and his sparkling personality and spontaneous smile were an inspiration to his classmates and to all who encountered him. One day he came to me vexed by a problem and asked me to pray for him. In the course of the prayer, I said something routine, with words like, "Oh, God, please help this man as he wrestles with his problem." When I opened my eyes the student was quietly weeping. I asked him what was wrong and he stammered his reply, "You called me a man -no one has ever called me a man before."
R.C. Sproul from 'The Hunger for Significance'
From the Sermons.com
1. You Never Missed It
A priest once asked one of his parishioners to serve as financial chairman of his parish. The man, manager of a grain elevator, agreed on two conditions: no report would be due for a year, and no one would ask any questions during the year. At the end of the year he made his report. He had paid off the church debt of $200,000. He had redecorated the church. He had sent money to missions. He had $5,000 in the bank. Needless to say, everyone wanted to know how. The man quietly explained, "You people bring your grain to my elevator. As you did business with me, I simply withheld 10 percent and gave it to the church. You never missed it."
David E. Leininger, The View from Jesus' Pew
2. Giving Till It Hurts
2. Giving Till It Hurts
Don't give till it hurts. Give till it helps. The story is told of a very wealthy man who had never been known for his generosity to the church. The church was involved in a big financial program and they resolved to pay him a visit. When the committee met with the man one afternoon, they said that in view of his considerable resources they were sure that he would like to make a substantial contribution to this program.
"I see," he said, "so you have it all figured out have you? In the course of your investigation did you discover that I have a widowed mother who has no other means of support but me?" No, they responded, they did not know that. "Did you know that I have a sister who was left by a drunken husband with five children and no means to provide for them?" No, they said, we did not know that either. "Well, sir, did you know also that I have a brother who is handicapped due to an automobile accident and can never work another day to support his wife and family?"
Embarrassingly, they responded, no sir, we did not know that either. "Well," he thundered triumphantly, "I've never given any of them a cent so why should I give anything to you?"
Like that man, most of us never give till it hurts or helps. It is interesting to me that people who tithe in the church never speak of it as hurting. My wife and I tithe and it has not made life painful for us in the least. We started discussing some days ago what our pledge to the church for next year would be and how we could increase it. That doesn't sound like it hurts does it? It is the grudging giver, who is the one who always registers the complaint: At that church all they talk about is money." So let us get off of this notion of give till it hurts so that we affirm we give till it helps.____________________
3. Humor: Now That I Have Your Undivided Attention
A businessman who needed millions of dollars to clinch an important deal went to the temple to pray for the money. By chance he sat next to a man who was praying for $100 to pay an urgent debt.
The businessman took out his wallet and pressed $100 into the other man's hand. Overjoyed, the man got up and left the temple. The businessman then closed his eyes and prayed: "And now, Lord, that I have your undivided attention . . ."
Traditional. Told by Billy Strayhorn
4. The Widow's Mite for $39.95
An advertisement I ran across read: "Now you too can own a Genuine Coin From The Time of Jesus: The Widow's Mite. It's a minor miracle that this coin has survived and now people of faith can study, cherish, and protect it for future generations. It's yet another miracle that they're so affordable."
Then, the ad goes on to quote the Scripture we just heard, "While our limited supplies last, you may order the 2,000 year old Widow's Mite for only $39.95 plus shipping and handling. Remember this is the genuine coin mentioned in the Holy Bible and it makes a perfect gift for your child, grandchild, or favorite clergyman."
The advertisement makes it sound like your buying the actual coin the widow dropped into the receptacle. Of course, you are not. It doesn't exist. Harder still is to purchase the woman's attitude of generosity, which is of greater value in today's market.
5. It's How You Give
Abraham Lincoln, was once hired by a man to sue someone else because they owed him $2.50. Not a large amount, but in the l860's it was. Lincoln didn't want to take the case but his client insisted. So Abe asked for a $l0.00 retainer fee up front. His client handed him the $l0. Lincoln then gave the man who owed $2.50 half of the ten. The man promptly paid his debt and everyone went home happy. It's not what you give, it is HOW you give. God wants us to give of ourselves joyfully without expecting anything in return.
6. I Have a Dollar
The Junior Sunday School Teacher asked her eight eager children if they would give $1,000,000 to the missionaries. "YES!" they all screamed!! "Would you give $1,000?" Again they shouted, "YES!" "How about $100?" "Oh, YES we would!" they all agreed!! "Would you give just a dollar to the missionaries?" she asked. The boys exclaimed "YES!" just as before except for Johnny. "Johnny," the teacher said as she noticed the boy clutching his pocket, "why didn't you say 'YES' this time?" "Well," he stammered, "I HAVE a dollar."
_____________________The danger of pride is that it feeds on goodness.
__________________7. A Symbol of Hope
Ruele Howe tells about growing up with his parents in the country. When he was 15 years old, the house caught on fire. They escaped with only the clothes on their backs. There were no close neighbors to help so he and his father walked to a distant village to get supplies. As they returned they saw something that stayed with Ruele Howe all those years after. Beside the charred remains of what had been their house, his mother had laid out lunch on a log. She had placed a tin can filled with wildflowers on the log. It was a symbol of hope in the midst of tragedy.
This is the Christian faith, isn't it? She didn't try to cover up the disaster with flowers, but in the midst of that gloomy scene she had placed a symbol of hope.
These two coins that the widow placed in the temple treasury were her wildflowers. This was her symbol, her way of saying I know God will provide.
___________________________8. Who Is Important?
It's easy to become confused about who's important in our society. We are encouraged to think of celebrities as most important. Television shows are devoted to their lives, and magazines and newspapers keep us informed of their every move. The movers and the shakers, too, are touted as important. Imagine how powerful the chairman of the Federal Reserve is! With a single sentence in a speech he can send the stock market plummeting. These are the people we are taught to regard as important.
In the meantime many of our elderly waste away in nursing homes, forgotten even by their families. They don't make the news, aren't featured in magazines and newspapers, and are regarded simply as society's "throw-always." Thankfully widows today do not have the meager social status they had in Jesus' time. However, it is not hard to find contemporary parallels to the poor widow of this story. Just consider the homeless people in our communities.
__________________9. Cordially Yours
I'm reminded of the story of the young soldier who was overseas. He was writing his girlfriend. He wanted to send her a telegram because he thought that would make more of an impression. So he gave the telegraph operator a message to send. The message was this: "I love you. I love you. I love you. John."
The telegraph operator said, "Son, for the same amount of money you can send one more word." So he amended his message and it read like this: "I love you. I love you. I love you. Cordially, John."
Many of us profess our love for God, "I love you, I love you, I love you," but when push comes to shove our devotion is more like "cordially" than it is love.
This widow put her money where her heart was. She gave all she had. And Jesus praised her.
King DuncanFrom Fr. Tony Kadavil:
10. Mother Teresa’s mite:
Consider David Porter's comment on Mother Teresa: "She was born as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu (AG-nes GOHN-jah BOY-yah-jee-oo), to Albanian parents in Yugoslavia. She went to India in 1929 as a member of the Loreto Order of nuns, after learning English in their Motherhouse in Dublin Ireland. There she taught for many years and became principal of the school. In 1946, she received her 'call within a call' to work with the poorest of the poor. By 1948, she had received permission to leave the Loreto order and had trained in the nursing skills she would need to carry out her calling. She prayed, "Oh God, if I cannot help these people in their poverty and their suffering, let me at least die with them, close to them, so that I can show them your love" [Mother Teresa: The Early Years, 67; cited by Caroline J. Simon, "The Media and Mother Teresa," Perspectives, 12 (March, 1997), 3.] Simon notes: "From this simple beginning, the Missionaries of Charity have grown to include 4,500 Sisters and Brothers, 755 homes for the children, the sick, the destitute and the dying and 1,369 medical clinics that serve 120,000 worldwide." Mother Teresa's mite has might, and it's the ever-growing might of love in action.
11. A widow’s mite in the life of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.
By birth and marriage, Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton was linked to the first families of New York and enjoyed the fruits of living in high society. Reared a staunch Episcopalian by her mother and stepmother, she learned the value of prayer, Scripture reading and a nightly examination of conscience. At 19, Elizabeth was the belle of New York. She married a handsome, wealthy businessman, William Magee Seton. They had five children before his business failed, and William died of tuberculosis. At 30, Elizabeth found herself widowed and penniless, with five small children to support. While in Italy with her dying husband, Elizabeth had witnessed the Catholic Church in action, through the lives, beliefs and behavior of family friends. Three basic elements in Catholicism led her to become a Catholic in March, 1805: a belief in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary as Mother of God, and a conviction that the Catholic Church traced its origin and priesthood in a direct line back to the apostles and to Christ. When Elizabeth returned to the U. S., many of her family and friends rejected her because she had become a Catholic. To support her children, she opened a school in Baltimore with the cooperation of some of her friends. From the beginning, her group was organized along the lines of the religious community which would only be founded officially in 1809. Mother Seton became one of the keystones of the American Catholic Church. She founded the first American religious community for women, the Sisters of Charity. She opened the first American parish school and established the first American Catholic orphanage. All this she did in the span of 46 years while rearing her five children. She died on January 4, 1821, and was buried in Emmitsburg, Maryland. In 1963, Mother Seton was beatified, the first American-born citizen to receive this honor. She was canonized in 1975. Elizabeth Ann Seton was a real widow who offered her mite to God without reservation as the poor widow in today’s gospel did (Adapted from St. Anthony’s Messenger).
12. Fanny Epps' mite has might of love:
Mrs. Epps likes the time she spends with children. So she enjoys her time as a volunteer at the Norge Elementary School in Williamsburg, Virginia. There, she works with students who have mental and physical disabilities. Her day begins long before she goes on duty at 7 a.m. She has to catch a bus to get to the school. When she gets there, she greets Drew who has difficulty walking. Another one of her favorites has Down syndrome. He sits beside her, smiling. She turns on the tape recorder and plays "Jingle Bell Rock," while her students sing and clap enthusiastically. It takes a lot of energy to work all morning, five days a week, with these children. Oh, did I mention that Mrs. Epps is 99 years old? Wasted time, twisted values? "I don't want to act dead while I'm still alive," she says. Fanny Epps' mite has might, and it's the might of love!
13.Chicken and Pig:
You know the old joke about the chicken and the pig that saw the church sign saying "Help feed the hungry." The chicken said "That's a good idea! Let's help by putting in our 'widow’s mite.' Let's give ham and eggs." The pig said "That's easy for you to say, but for me it's a total commitment!"
14. Church Collection
A six-year-old boy, home from his first day at church, was asked what he thought of the Holy Mass. "It was OK," he replied, "but I think it was unfair that the pastor at the altar did all the work, and then a bunch of other people came around and took away all the money." Amen to that small lad's insight!
15. The Bank or the Church
A colleague once told how "a certain woman phoned her personal banker to arrange for the disposal of a $1,000 bond. The voice on the phone asked for clarification, "Is the bond for conversion or redemption?'' The confused woman paused and then inquired, "Am I talking to the bank or the church?''*****
From the Connections:
Preaching in the Jerusalem temple days before the Last Supper and his crucifixion, Jesus indicts the scribes for their lavish but empty show of faith. The scribes, in their haughty and arrogant attitude, are the antithesis of what Jesus wants his disciples to be.
In Jesus’ time, scribes, as the accepted experts of the Law, could serve as trustees of a widow’s estate. As their fee, they took a portion of the estate. Obviously, scribes with a reputation for piety were often entrusted with this role. With their ability to manipulate the interpretations of the Law to their advantage, the system was rife with abuse.
Throughout Scripture, widows were portrayed as the supreme examples of the destitute and powerless (today’s first reading from the 1 Kings is an example). Jesus again makes a considerable impact on his hearers, then, by lifting up a widow who has nothing as an example of faithful generosity. Only that which is given not from our abundance but from our own need and poverty -- and given totally, completely, humbly and joyfully -- is a gift fitting for God.
Greatness in the reign of God is not measured by what is in our portfolios, bank accounts or resumes, but by the love in our hearts that directs the use and sharing of those gifts.
The faithful disciple honors the dignity of the servant above the power of the rich, canonizes humility over celebrity and is inspired by the total generosity of the widow rather than the empty gestures of the scribe.
The widow's “reckless” giving from her poverty rather than from her abundance challenges our concept of carefully planned, tax deductible, convenient and painless giving. Jesus’ concept of charity is centered in the kind of total and unconditional love that makes such sacrificial giving a joy.
The ‘honor roll of donors’
It comes every year, just before taxes must be filed: the annual issue of your college’s alumni magazine with the list of donors to the institution’s annual fund. Arts groups, social service agencies and foundations also publish such lists under various titles, such as “annual donor report” or “honor roll of donors.”
The donors are broken down by class year and level of giving. And you look. The fundraisers and development officers know you look. That’s why they compile the list and send it to everyone. You look to see how your gift measures up to those of your classmates. You look to see who’s doing well — and who’s not — and where you place among them. You look out of curiosity, pride and self-satisfaction.
Such donor lists are about numbers. They tell us nothing about dedication, commitment and values. The alum who writes the $5,000-check may not give his gift a second thought until he or she itemizes the donation on their tax return — but the alum struggling with the tuition payments for his or her three children manages to give $100 because they feel a deep sense of gratitude for the education they received.
The symphony’s largest donors are the movers and shakers in town, and supporting the arts is just good business — but the retired school teacher’s gift of $50 is her way of being part of something good and important in her community.
The real “honor” in giving is not the amount but what compels us to give in the first place.
In exalting the gift of the poor widow, Jesus wants us to realize that, in the economy of God, numbers are not the true value of giving. It is what we give from our want, not from our extra, that speaks of what we truly value, what good we truly want to accomplish, what we want our lives and world to be. In the Gospel scheme of things, it is not the measure of the gift but the measure of the love, selflessness and commitment that directs the gift that is great before God. For Christ calls us not to seek greater things or talents to astound the world but for greater love and selflessness with which to enrich the world