How much do we actually give?

| Father Tom Walker | November 7, 2018 | 0 Comments
The Widow's Mite

The Widow’s Mite – James Tissot – Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2008

Our Scriptures this weekend invite us to consider the offerings of three different people, beginning with the widow of Zarephath. She encounters the prophet Elijah at a critical time for both of them.

As a part of a prolonged conflict with King Ahab, Elijah is a refugee who relies on God’s promise to protect him and provide the basic necessities of life. The widow, herself part of a group of the least ones protected and favored by God, thinks she has come to the end for herself and her son. Yet, from the little she has, enough for a last meal for her family before death, she shares what she cannot seemingly afford to share with this prophet of a God she does not know.

Perhaps her generosity is in part supported by her sense of solidarity with another desperate soul during a difficult time. God then keeps the promise made through Elijah that her jar of flour would not go empty nor the jug of oil run dry.

The widow in our Gospel similarly exhibits a generosity that shames the scribes parading around her in all their finery. This story contrasts her giving from her poverty, from what she needed to survive, with their giving from their surplus. Indeed, with the widow as one of God’s favored ones, the situation should have been reversed, with the widow receiving support from the scribes.

Rather than praising what the widow has done, is Jesus more weeping that the state of affairs in the temple had come to the point where widows felt obligated to give what they could not afford to give? Is this part of the reason for the passage which immediately follows, in which Jesus foretells that the temple in all its glory will soon be torn down?

Finally, our reading from Hebrews focuses on the once-for-all offering or sacrifice of Christ the high priest. The widows reflect the generosity of the One who set aside his divinity and became for a while lower than the angels — one with the brothers and sisters he came to save. He who was without sin freely offered upon the cross all he had — his very life — to take away our sins and one day bring us to salvation.

As we approach the altar this Sunday, we are called to reflect in our lives the sacrifice made by the One we receive. Do we willingly place our lives in the Father’s hands each day, giving him the best moments of our day, or is our prayer more a routine offering of any leftover or surplus moments we have? Do we willingly make sacrifices when we see a sister or brother in need, or do we find ourselves too often confessing that we should do more to help others but don’t quite get around to it?

Father Walker is pastor of St. Michael in Prior Lake.

Sunday Nov. 11
Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Category: Sunday Scriptures