32nd Sunday

Kings 17:10-16 Hebrews 9:24-28 Mark 12:10-16

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A 100-dollar bill, a 20-dollar bill, and a one dollar bill meet up at the shredder at the end of their lives. The 100 says, “I’ve seen the whole world during my lifetime. Why, I’ve been on cruises in Caribbean, safaris in Africa, and vacations in Europe.” The 20 says, “Well, I’ve not done quite as well, but I have been to Atlantic City, Disneyland, and Starbucks.” They both turn to the one-dollar bill and ask, “How about you?” The one, not wanting to be outdone, says, “I’ve seen the whole country as well. I’ve been from church to church to church…”  Then the 100 asked, “What’s a church?”

Mother Teresa told a story how one day she was walking down the street when a beggar came up to her and said, ‘Mother Teresa, everybody is giving to you, I also want to give to you.’ Today, for the whole day, I got only $0.30. I want to give it to you.

Mother Teresa thought for a moment: if I take the $0.30 he will have nothing to eat tonight, and if I don’t take it I will hurt his feelings. So I put out my hands and I took the money. I have never seen such joy on anybody’s face as I saw on the face of that beggar man at the thought that he too could give to Mother Teresa.

Mother Teresa went on; ‘ It was a big sacrifice for that poor man, who had sat in the sun all day long and received only $0.30. It was beautiful. Thirty cents is such a small amount, and I can get nothing with it, but as he gave it to her and I took it, it became like thousands because it was given with so much love. God looks, not at the greatness of the work, but at the love with which it is performed.’

The readings today tell similar stories of generosity. Both concern two very poor people – two Windows. On one level the story in the first reading makes no sense. Indeed, it seems ridiculous and impossible. That is, if we take it in the literal sense. We could, of course, take it in a literal sense – In the sense of a miracle. But it can be taken in another sense. Then, it becomes very true, and it opens up whole horizons of meaning and application.

The widow was down to the last of her food. All she had left was a handful of meal in a jar and a little oil in a jug. Yet, by sharing what she had with the prophet, it never ran out. The point being made here is: it is possible to give without losing. In fact, to give can be a way of gaining. Not to give can be a sure way of losing what we have.

Take the example of a grain of wheat. If It is left in the barn, it remains just a grain of wheat, which in time will become moldy and decay, and then there is nothing left at all. But if it is taken out and planted, it will die, but in doing so it is multiplied many times over.

So there is a sense in which we can share what we have without being impoverished. In fact, we are more likely to be enriched in so doing. Of course, here we are not talking about material things. A teacher loses nothing of his/her knowledge by sharing it with his pupils. A mother loses nothing of her love by sharing it with her children.

We can share such things as knowledge, love and peace with others without our own supply of these being in any way diminished. Giving liberates the soul of the giver. The giver is as enriched as the recipient. We see this in the case of the widow in the First Reading. When we give cheerfully, and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.

Even though no one else noticed what the widow had done, Jesus noticed it and praised it. It’s a nice to know that even such a small deed of love does not escape his attention. The widow in the Gospel story gave her all. She let go of every shred of security and committed herself wholly to God. Hence, the story is as much about trust in God as about generosity. How generous are we in sharing what we have?

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