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A LESSON IN GIVING

Father Francis's picture
Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time

Mk. 12:38-44

It seems that Jesus made a point of sitting where He could watch the people put money into the treasury, in the Gospel today. He noticed a widow who dropped two small coins into the collection box; He also saw many givers who came with some large gifts. But what did He say to His disciples? “This poor widow contributed more than all the others.They gave from their surplus wealth, but she gave all that she had.”

Think for a moment what that woman accomplished with her small but generous donation. In terms of purchasing power, she gave almost nothing, but her small investment produced a very large return.
The first thing she got from it was the joy of giving. I cannot believe the woman was gloomy about her gift, otherwise Jesus would not have been so impressed by it. There is nothing inspiring about any gift that is given grudgingly. St. Paul says, “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). That should not surprise us. We do not enjoy receiving or observing any act of giving, unless it is done willingly and cheerfully. Poor though she was, this woman was determined that poverty would not rob her of the joy of giving.

We must never forget that God is never outdone in generosity. In the 1970s I knew a divorced young mother with two young children who lived on £27 a week. She told me she never wanted for anything. God always saw to it that she got through the week. She put this down to the fact that as soon as she received her social security payment she always set aside £1 for the Sunday collection. I wish we knew how that poor widow in the Gospel coped when she went home. I wager God saw to it that she did not want for anything either.

How much money should I put on the collection plate? The late Cardinal Hume said, “If you work a 40 hour week, give one fortieth of your pay packet.” So if you earn £400 it means putting £10 on the plate. But I think that could be a lot. When I was a parish priest I would suggest giving one hundredth. That means giving £4 if you are earning £400 a week. If people did that our collections would treble and even quadruple!

The second thing the widow received from her gift was the approval of Jesus. If in Heaven Jesus has a treasure chest of memorabilia I think you will find a broken perfume bottle. It belonged to Mary who anointed Jesus’ head and feet before the day of His burial. We would also find a cup of water. We don’t know whose it was. It could have belonged to anyone because Jesus said, “Whoever gives a cup of cold water in my name will not lose his reward.” Finally, you will find two little coins that belonged to a widow. They symbolised something that He valued very highly. They stood for the spirit of giving and of sacrifice.

Thirdly, this widow gave us a lesson in giving. She has given us a challenge we can never forget. If ever we start thinking of ourselves as generous givers, all we need to do is to remember this widow. Most of us give of our surplus; she gave everything she had. We will never do that, and perhaps we should not. At least we can never be boastful of our sacrificial spirit, not as long as we remember this woman. She challenges and encourages us. Sometimes it seems that there is so much to do, and so little we can do about it, that we are tempted not to try. When we think like that we can read her story and take heart. It tells us that in the eyes of Christ, no gift is too small to accept and no talent too little to use.

Lord Jesus let us see what that woman accomplished with her two little coins – the joy of giving, Your approval and, across the centuries, challenged and encouraged millions of people to give. Never let me forget my duty to be generous.

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