32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Fr. Simham)
Give until it hurts you
Friends, the readings today talk about generosity. Referring to generosity Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta said, ‘This is the meaning of true love, to give until it hurts.’ What she was saying was to love a person means to be generous to him or her until it hurts. That is the message contained in the gospel and in the first reading today. We have the tale of the two widows in the readings today. In the first reading widow of Zarephath was asked to be generous by Elijah the man of God. It is easy to be generous if you have plenty but to be generous in your scarcity is a challenge. That is the challenge the widow of Zarephath is faced with. She has to part away with the little what she had. That is the only meal that she and her son will have before they meet the fate of severe famine. That little she had, she had to forgo to feed a stranger in need. She does not know who he is and where he comes from, but she has to help him not out of plenty but out her dire scarcity. She responds positively. Her sacrifice is rewarded.
And in the gospel reading, Jesus observes and contrasts the offering of two kinds of people. There were the rich people who were putting in lots of coins with clanging sound for everyone to hear. They found happiness in that. And then came a widow with two coins and dropped them in. Jesus contrasts these two people and says that the poor widow had given more than the rich. The rich gave out of their plenty. It doesn’t hurt them, they can still have their food, comforts and everything. But the widow has to sacrifice something that day because she gave away what she had. Her offering hurts her. Her giving hurts her. She has to forego something as a result of this. And there fore Jesus says she has given more than anyone else, because she had to sacrifice.
Although Jesus did not deliberately ask his disciples to imitate her, he surely meant something more than just commending her generosity and condemning the avarice and pride of the scribes. The very fact that he chose a widow as an example of generosity is in itself a great lesson to be learnt for his disciples. In the old testament, Widows, orphans and strangers are considered as the most vulnerable people in the society. They do not have inheritance right. So they depend on the generosity of others. Whatever they have is the generosity of others. May be the parents, brothers or the community. A person who depends on the generosity of others, being set as an example for generosity serves both as mockery of the pseudo generosity of the rich, and also as a lesson for everyone to learn. What is the lesson? Paulinus of Nola, a 5th century Christian Latin poet, contemporary of St. Ambrose and St. Augustine, wrote reflecting on this gospel, ‘All what we have comes from God. For we have nothing that does not come from him. We depend upon him for our very existence. And as Christian, we are more indebted to him, for we are not only created by God, but we were also purchased by God.’ All what we are and all that we have is his generosity. In that way we are all like the widow. Now giving those things we have in generosity makes you and me to acknowledge that it is his goods that we give back. And moreover it is here you and me stand as the image of God who knows only to give, give until it hurts. Some one said, ‘In gratitude we are human; in generosity we are divine.’
But the great irony of our modern world is that we act as if everything is ours and we are extremely generous to god with the little we give. Be it the time or the money we give, we think we are very generous with God. But what we do not understand is that it is his things we possess, it is his time we possess. Seventy or eighty years is our life span. It is his gift. Million or 100 million; it is his gift. Out of these, we give one hour or one pound to God every week and say, we are generous to him. Surely God will be laughing at us.
Secondly, I heard someone saying that there are four different types of giving. The first is called grudge giving. I hate to part with this ten dollars but I will. The second is shame giving. I must match whatever the others give otherwise it is a shame. The third is calculated giving. We part with our money with what, someone deliciously called, a “lively sense of favours to come.” Bingos, and raffle tickets fit in very nicely in this category. The final category is thanksgiving. I part with my funds precisely because God has been so wonderfully generous to me. The widow of today’s Gospel fits comfortably into this area. What type of givers are we? Remember, God loves a cheerful giver. Amen
A small boy observed his mother put a dollar in the offering plate at mass. On the way home from church, she freely criticised the poor homily they had heard. ‘But, mother,’ said the boy, ‘what could you expect for a dollar?’
Fr. Showreelu Simham