|11/8/2012 11:10:00 AM|
The Poor Teach Us How to Give
Nov. 11, Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
|Mary Jo Tully|
Chancellor, Archdiocese of Portland
Mark 12:38-44 or 12:41-44
Today’s liturgy focuses on the tale of two widows and their generosity. Neither of the women could give without some sacrifice. They did not give from their surplus. The widow who fed Elijah does not hesitate to use the last of her flour and oil to feed him. The widow in the Gospel puts all she has (the equivalent of a few pennies) in the Temple treasury.
There are those who will point out how exceptional these women are. After all, they are widows who at this time are associated with poverty. The widow of Zarephath had to feed herself and her son, and there had been a three year drought. Scripture commentaries suggest that the woman expected to die after the little flour and oil she had, was gone. She does not think of her own needs. Instead she responds to the prophet’s voice.
It was really not necessary for Jesus to point out the generosity of the widow in the Gospel. The disciples knew that because the woman was poor, she was not required to give money for temple worship, or to support the charitable activities of the priest. They also knew full well that many others, perhaps even they, contributed from their surplus.
In many ways, the spirit of generosity is especially characteristic of women—at least women I have known, and it is only a reflection of the generosity about which we hear in the second reading. The generosity of the two widows emanates from the very generosity of God, which is manifested to us in Jesus Christ. This is the generosity of Jesus who offers himself once and for all, for us. No one is excluded from this generosity. His priestly work continues to bring salvation “to those who eagerly await him.”
We don’t know what experiences brought these women to their place in these stories. Each of us though, knows occasions that have influenced our own approach to helping others. Most of us have learned that the worst sort of poverty would be the kind that would not enable us to reach out to others. Most of us have learned that when we give to others, it is returned to us. Whatever our experience, the Eucharist calls us to give what we have not only to the Lord but to one another, with the conviction that what we need will be provided. In giving, we discover our life has a “hidden pocket.” There is always something left when we need it.
The gifts we give each other are not just material. There are those who need the time, which we have in short supply. Others need only our affirmation. Some need a shoulder to weep on when ours is already soaked with our own tears. Perhaps these are the only gifts we have to offer. Sometimes they are the most important.
We move to the altar with the force that comes from our faith. Our faith is the treasury that is never empty.