Denunciation of the Scribes: The Poor Widow
Winston Churchill says: “We make a living by what we get but we make a life by what we give.”
In the Jewish society, a woman and especially widow, is a no-person. Widow is one of the exploited and impoverished people because she is neither a wife nor a mother to anyone; she has no family of her own; a society’s problem; to lose one’s husband is to lose one’s identity and so no one could provide her with an identity. In other words, a widow at that time is the very symbol of poverty and helplessness.
Today’s gospel reading presents us another poor woman, a widow, who is a model of generosity in spite of her poverty. The gospel shows us how generous she is because she is not afraid to own nothing. She gives her last two small copper coins, everything she had, to the temple treasury. She can therefore have kept one of them and given the other but she gives both even in such a destitute situation. She trusts God totally for her sustenance and has no fear of nothingness. This is what we call generosity in spirit. That is why Jesus appreciates so much such extreme generosity and cites her example to His disciples and not the rich people who give. It is because these rich people give out of the surplus of their wealth. 365 Days with the Lord (June 7, 2008) said that too often the rich people expect to be celebrated and commemorated for their giving. The poor most often expect nothing in return.
Therefore Jesus judges the generosity of each one of us, not by the quantity of our offerings but clearly, by the quality of our gifts. Fr. Ross Heruela, SVD (June 7, Bible Diary 2008) said that in the eyes of God, what matters most is not how much we give but how pure the intention is when we give; not how much we do but how much we love what we are doing.
How does Jesus teach us about generosity through this poor widow’s example? First is, He teaches us: “No strings attached.” Jesus tells us that our generosity must be without any strings attached. It is because many of us seem to be looking for repayment and recognition for what we do and so strings are attached to our love for God and others. In St. Luke’s gospel we can find some of His teachings about this: “Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. … For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? … And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? … If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you,” (6:27-38). Therefore, in relation to generosity, real love does not look for anything in return. All love wants to do is to give. Is our love like this? Are there strings attached to our love?
And the other one is, do, even little things, with love. I’m sure you can still remember St. Therese of Lisieux. One of her favorite biblical passages was coming from the Book of Proverbs (9:4) that says: “Whoever is a little one let him come to me.” She was a popular saint not because of the great things she did but because of little things she did with love. She believed that her vocation was the vocation to love. Sometimes these small things can be smile, tapping of shoulders, sit up straight in the chair or simply accepting the annoyances of others with joy. What matters is not the external amount of our actions but the love we put into them that always leads us to act according to God’s wishes.
And so let us go about doing good not so much with our eyes set on our actions but with our hearts set on pleasing the Father who sees all things.
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