32 Sunday B: 2 Copper Coins - True Generosity


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The Bagger boy with Down syndrome makes a difference at the store: His copper coins:


From Fr. James Gilhooley                     
A government social worker was visiting New England farms. He had the authority to give federal dollars to poor farmers. He found an elderly widow farming a few acres. Her house was clean but tiny. There did not appear to be much food in the house. The windows had no screens to keep out the summer flies. The exterior needed a paint job. He wondered how she could survive. He asked, "What would you do if the government gave you five hundred dollars?" Her answer was, "I would give it to the poor."

She was similar to the widow whom Daniel Webster had in mind. He was asked, "What moved you to become a Christian?" He replied, "Studying the way an old woman in New Hampshire lived." The women of these two stories had much in common with today's Gospel widow. They were obviously cut out of the same bolt of exquisite damask. All three have much to tell us. Do most Catholics give a fair share of their income to the Church and to charities? A Gallup poll answered that query. In a recent year, American Catholics gave 1.3% of their income to parish and charities. But Protestants gave 2.4% and Jews 3.8%.

Our comparative tightness with our dollars comes despite Rousseau's admonition. "When a man dies, he carries in his hands only that which he has given away." We would do well to recall the question asked about the wealthy man who died. "How much money did he leave? The answer came promptly. "All of it!"

Who of us has ever seen a U Haul hitched to a hearse? The title of a 1938 film says it all: You Can't Take It With You.

The Nazarene must appreciate the boldness of those who tithe. Incidentally He Himself did the same in the synagogue at Nazareth for most of His adult life. A survey reveals while 44% of Baptists tithe, but 4% of Catholics do. Giving 10% of one's income to the church and charities can be a frightening sum to consider. But those who do it testify that God has never let them down. Most of us are just too fearful of finding out whether that will be the case. So, we shall die wondering. And, more than likely, we are destined to die with regrets. Research by Patrick Carney revealed that the highest percentage of Catholic contributions in the New York diocese comes from African-Americans in Central Harlem. Most of us Caucasians have higher incomes than the majority of these people. But they have more in common with the woman of Mark's Gospel than we. These people would remind us that faith motivates people to open their wallets. Perhaps they have in mind Paul's advice in 2 Corinthians 9:7, "God loves a cheerful giver."

Bertrand Russell wrote, "To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness." Too often the comfortable give to God as though they were poor. And the poor give to Him as though they were wealthy.

Many Catholics are more generous to waiters than to God. They give up to 20% of their bill. That is double-tithing. They would be embarrassed and afraid to give to waiters what they give to God. He deserves not a tip but a tribute.

Someone has enumerated four different types of giving. The first is called grudge giving. I hate to part with this twenty dollars but I will. The second is shame giving. I must match whatever the Jones family is giving. The third is calculated giving. We part with our money with what, someone deliciously called, a "lively sense of favors to come." Bingos, Las Vegas nights, 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.

This tale also points up another truth about our Christian selves. The majority of us do not fully give ourselves to the Christ. We are marking time with our Catholic lives. We are hedging our bets. The clever Mark situates his famous story during the last week in the life of the Nazarene. None too subtly he is reminding us that in a few days He will give His life for us on Calvary. What do we give Him in return?

Thus the Gospel reminds us that we should give, in Cardinal Mercier's words, not only what we have but also what we are.

Remember this epitaph on an English gravestone. "What I kept I lost. What I spent I had. What I gave I have."
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Gospel text: Mark 12:38-44


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Michel DeVerteuil
Textual Comments

Jesus is teaching in Jerusalem, the center of the Jewish religion, the heart of the opposition to all he stood for. Remembering this context will give an added dimension to our meditation.
The passage is in two sections:
– verses 38 to 40,
– verses 41 to 44, the touching story of the widow.
In verses 38 to 40 we see first the simple fact that Jesus spoke out courageously in Jerusalem – a model not merely for the church but for all his followers. Then there is the content of his teaching – the tendency for all of us religious people to seek public approval (usually an unconscious tendency brought to light by a Jesus person). Follow St Mark in making a connection between that tendency and swallowing the property of widows in verse 40.
We must be careful to interpret verses 42 to 44 correctly. Jesus is not pointing out the difference between people who can give plenty and people who can give very little, as the passage is often interpreted. He is pointing out the difference between giving what we have left over and giving all that we have.
You might like to focus on Jesus again in this section – for example, on the fact that he noticed the widow. What kind of person does this show him to be?
You might also like to see if you can make a connection between the two sections of the passage, based on your own experience.

Scripture reflection prayers
Lord, people today set great store on show;
– the wealthy and powerful are much sought after;
– -when people give donations to charity it is written up in the papers.
We pray that the church may continue to judge things like Jesus did.
When we sit down opposite a treasury
and see those who are putting in a great deal
we may notice, like Jesus did, the poor widow
who comes and puts in two small coins, the equivalent of a penny.
Give us the courage then to call people and to say plainly to them
that the poor widow has put in more
than all who have contributed to the treasury,
for they put in what they had over,
but she, from the little she had, put in everything she possessed,
all she had to live on.
Lord, if the property of defenseless people
is so often swallowed up in society today
it is because we are putting too much store on public acclaim,
on who is wearing long robes,
and being greeted obsequiously in the market squares;
on who takes the front seats in church
and places of honour at banquets.
Lord have mercy.
Lord, we remember with gratitude a time when we were not succeeding
– at school, no matter how much we tried we could not get our sums right;
– in our family, a brother or sister just kept getting on our nerves;
– at work, others finished their tasks long before we could
We thank you that at that moment you sent Jesus to us
– a teacher, a parent, a supervisor,
someone who understood that even though we did not have much to show
we were giving more than all the others
because from the little we had we were giving everything.
Lord, Jesus was such a balanced person.
He pointed out the faults of the powerful,
those who made a show if lengthy prayers
and at the same time swallowed the property of widows.
But he was also constructive.
By praising the poor widow who gave everything she possessed,
he showed us all the way we could go.
Lord, when we find people using lengthy prayers
to cover up the fact that they are swallowing the property of widows
we are more severe in our judgment of them,
Now we know that Jesus felt the same way.
A society that does not value women turns likewise a deaf ear to its children; in other words, it cuts off its own future.” …Jeanne Henriquez of CuraƧao
Lord, we pray that like Jesus we may always notice the women of our society
Who give themselves unreservedly to bringing up their families.
From the little they have, they put everything they possess,
All they have to live on.
“A young woman asked an old woman, ‘What is life’s hardest burden?’
And the old woman replied, ‘To have nothing to carry.’”  …A Jewish tale
Lord, we feel sorry for people who only know
about giving what they have left over.
They do not know the joy
of giving everything they possess to a cause they believe in.
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Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration

We can gather here because each of us has heard, in some way , „ another, the divine invitation to become beloved daughters and son of the Father. The Spirit has moved our hearts to set out (o follow the Lord, and we have started on a journey towards the Father in the way we live our lives. However, as we gather today to celebrate this journey, we are also conscious that we often fail to live life in accordance with this invitation. The gospel recalls Jesus seeing a poor widow in the temple treasury and his way of looking at this woman is a challenge to all of us who accept his invitation to follow him.

Homily notes
1. When we stand and recite the creed we affirm our belief in the events surrounding our salvation: the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and in what he has revealed to us about the Father and the Spirit. Because we solemnly affirm this faith each Sunday, it is all too easy to slip into thinking that to be a Christian is simply a matter of accepting that creed. The argument runs like this: I profess the creed, therefore I am a ‘Christian. That is fine if you think of being a ‘Christian’ in terms of accepting a particular set of religious beliefs. But one might be described as a Christian, and yet not be a follower of the Christ.
2. To be a follower of Jesus is far more engaging than just accepting a creed, it is a whole way of thinking about life, a way of acting, and an alternative vision of the world.
Following Christ involves us as social beings – how we relate to other human beings, economic actors in society – what constitutes our values for success and what we believe to be worthy economic goals, and how we work to build up the society around us – how we relate to the larger problems such as peace-making, global poverty, the destruction of the environment.
3. Being a Christian involves seeing the whole of the universe as the creation of a loving God.
4. We glimpse this new vision of life in the tiny incident that is recalled today. It seems so banal: a tiny incident by an anonymous poor woman and a comment by Jesus upon it – can that really indicate a wholly different vision of the world from that which is our society’s common ‘default option’?
5. The widow, the proverbial image for the most marginalised in ancient society, is a person of no importance whatsoever. She is just one of the mass of people who need to be processed through this particular system – namely people wanting to make an offering to God at the temple – as fast as possible. She is indistinguishable from thousands of others and what she actually contributed is, equally, viewed as insignificant. She is not a person, but a biological entity. She is the type of person that can be left queuing indefinitely without being spoken to or given a sign of fellow human recognition. She can be brusquely pushed aside by clearly uniformed minor officials when a VIP has to be given special treatment and impressed. She is, if she dared to speak to one of those officials, just a problem. In terms of her economic significance, she is nothing. And the frightening reality is that we view so much of the world using that optic. If an individual, a group, a country does not impact on us economically, then it and its problems do not matter. We are more interested in countries whose land has oil than carrots!
6. The wealthy making a carefully calculated donation to the temple, and getting VIP treatment while they do so, are a familiar group: they would love to be alive today in The age of celebrity’ and would be happy to volunteer to participate in some glitzy event. But we also see the widow. One might even experience her plight while waiting in casualty in a hospital, trying to obtain justice from some vast bureaucracy, or even at a large religious gathering when it is dear to the stewards that some are more united to Christ than others.
7. Jesus’s view of the situation is radically different. Each person is to be viewed as an individual. And each individual is worthy of respect for each is to be understood from within her or his own circumstances. This woman, her situation, her intention: these form the framework of how Jesus her. Only within this framework can it be seen that she has given more than the rich.
8. To learn to view others with dignity and respect is no easy task: it goes right against the grain. To relate to individuals rather than mobs is also counter-cultural and flies against the fundamentals of mass consumption. To appreciate that each person is a beloved of God can only be known by those who themselves have responded to divine invitation to become beloved themselves.
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Sean Goan
Gospel

This incident takes up a theme present in the first reading, namely that those who show the greatest generosity are not always those with the most to give. However, before Jesus comments on the poor widow who gives of her all he roundly condemns those whose behaviour brings the practice of religion into discredit. Their aim is to be noticed and well thought of be¬cause of their adherence to religious ritual but by their actions they are revealed as oppressors who care nothing for the plight of those most in need, in fact they even add to their misery. This is a sham that offends Jesus to the core. It is in the context of condemning such behaviour that he notices the poor widow whose actions show her to be a woman of deep faith and trust. It is worth pointing out that Jesus is not suggesting that the poor who give of what they have and leave themselves with nothing are doing wht is expected of them. No, he is merely using the behaviour of the woman the show up the inadequacies of others who could learn much from her.
Reflection
In the modern era it is no doubt hard for us to relate to language a out the blood of animals and sacrifices by priests in the temple. However, the language of sacrifice is still very relevant to our world. Ironically this can be seen in the first reading where the actions of a poverty-stricken widow show us that the only sacrifice that matters is self sacrifice. God is not interested in the spilling of blood for this makes no change either in him or us; Rather God is concerned about whether we live for ourselves of for others, and Jesus in offering his life, not just by his death on the cross but by everything he did, has shown us the way.
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Donal Neary SJ
 series of  of contrasts
The gospel  is a series of contrasts – rich and poor, greedy and generous, arrogant and humble and it is not difficult to guess which of them Jesus is praising. The lady in question, a poor widow, may not even have heard the praise of Jesus but the disciples were left in no doubt where Jesus’ sympathies lay.
He praises true religion in the widow who gave all she had in the cause of God. He berates the co-existence of long prayers and the greed which took away the property of people like this widow.  The religious people of the day were meant to look after the widow and the orphan who had nobody else to fight their cause.
From the gospel we take the invitation of Jesus to give all; the amount given is not the big question, it is the giving of the heart. Jesus knows the listeners would cop on that what he was talking about was more than money – it was to give the first place in life to God and the things of God. That is the call to all of us.
The things of God we can glibly refer to are the love we are called to receive and to give, it is to care for other things of God too like creation, justice, peace  and reconciliation. It is to give time to worship God in common and in private – to ensure a space and time for prayer in each day.
The widow of the gospel had a generous heart, as did the widow in the first reading. They looked outward to the needs of other and the things of god, and gave what they could in this direction. Can we not do the same?


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From the Connections:

THE WORD:
Preaching in the Jerusalem temple days before the Last Supper and his crucifixion, Jesus indicts the scribes for their lavish but empty show of faith.  The scribes, in their haughty and arrogant attitude, are the antithesis of what Jesus wants his disciples to be.
In Jesus’ time, scribes, as the accepted experts of the Law, could serve as trustees of a widow’s estate.  As their fee, they took a portion of the estate.  Obviously, scribes with a reputation for piety were often entrusted with this role.  With their ability to manipulate the interpretations of the Law to their advantage, the system was rife with abuse.
Throughout Scripture, widows were portrayed as the supreme examples of the destitute and powerless (today’s first reading from the 1 Kings is an example).  Jesus again makes a considerable impact on his hearers, then, by lifting up a widow who has nothing as an example of faithful generosity.  Only that which is given not from our abundance but from our own need and poverty -- and given totally, completely, humbly and joyfully -- is a gift fitting for God.

HOMILY POINTS:
The kingdom of God is realized only in our embracing Christ's spirit of servanthood – servanthood that finds fulfillment and satisfaction in the love, compassion and kindness we can extend to others, that enables us to place the common good and the needs of others above our own wants and narrow interests.
Greatness in the reign of God is not measured by what is in our portfolios, bank accounts or resumes, but by the love in our hearts that directs the use and sharing of those gifts.
The faithful disciple honors the dignity of the servant above the power of the rich, canonizes humility over celebrity and is inspired by the total generosity of the widow rather than the empty gestures of the scribe.
The widow's “reckless” giving from her poverty rather than from her abundance challenges our concept of carefully planned, tax deductible, convenient and painless giving.  Jesus’ concept of charity is centered in the kind of total and unconditional love that makes such sacrificial giving a joy.

The ‘honor roll of donors
It comes every year, just before taxes must be filed: the annual issue of your college’s alumni magazine with the list of donors to the institution’s annual fund.  Arts groups, social service agencies and foundations also publish such lists under various titles, such as “annual donor report” or “honor roll of donors.” 
The donors are broken down by class year and level of giving.   And you look.  The fundraisers and development officers know you look.  That’s why they compile the list and send it to everyone.  You look to see how your gift measures up to those of your classmates.  You look to see who’s doing well — and who’s not — and where you place among them.  You look out of curiosity, pride and self-satisfaction.
Such donor lists are about numbers.  They tell us nothing about dedication, commitment and values.  The alum who writes the $5,000-check may not give his gift a second thought until he or she itemizes the donation on their tax return — but the alum struggling with the tuition payments for his or her three children manages to give $100 because they feel a deep sense of gratitude for the education they received.
The symphony’s largest donors are the movers and shakers in town, and supporting the arts is just good business — but the retired school teacher’s gift of $50 is her way of being part of something good and important in her community.
The real “honor” in giving is not the amount but what compels us to give in the first place.

In exalting the gift of the poor widow, Jesus wants us to realize that, in the economy of God, numbers are not the true value of giving.  It is what we give from our want, not from our extra, that speaks of what we truly value, what good we truly want to accomplish, what we want our lives and world to be.  In the Gospel scheme of things, it is not the measure of the gift but the measure of the love, selflessness and commitment that directs the gift that is great before God.  For Christ calls us not to seek greater things or talents to astound the world but for greater love and selflessness with which to enrich the world



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ILLUSTRATIONS:

From Fr. Jude Botelho:

In the first reading from the book of Kings we hear the story of the widow, whom Elijah meets in the town of Sodom, which is experiencing a famine. Now the prophet requests her for a little water and a meal. The widow has only a little left for herself and her son. The widow does not first ask: "Will you ask God for a special blessing on me if I give you this meal?" She is just ready to give up everything and die! Her total generosity is blessed by God's equally generous gift: she will never more know need. We can never outdo our God in generosity. Everything we give comes back to us in double measure, though the motive of our giving should not be that we should receive with interest! That would be business!

You are welcome!
One night years ago a cloudburst stranded a newly-wed couple on a remote country road. Unable to go any further, they got out of their car and set out on foot towards a dimly lit farmhouse. When they reached the farmhouse, an elderly couple carrying a kerosene lamp met them at the door. Explaining their predicament, the young man asked: "Could you put us up till morning? A place on the floor or a few easy chairs would be fine." Just then a few grains of rice slipped from the young lady's hair and fell to the floor. The elderly couple glanced down at it and exchanged a knowing glance. "Why surely children" said the elderly woman. "We just happen to have a spare bedroom. You get your things from the car while my husband and I freshen it up a bit." The next morning the newly-weds got up early and prepared to leave without disturbing the elderly couple. They dressed quietly, put a ten-dollar bill on the dresser, and tiptoed down the stairs. When they opened the door to the living room, they found the old couple asleep in chairs. They had given the newly-weds their only bedroom. The young man had his wife wait a minute while he tiptoed back upstairs and put another five dollars on the dresser.
Mark Link

In the Gospel we see Jesus teaching his disciples about the observances of the law especially about the temple rituals and practices. The purpose of the law was that people should show reverence and respect to God, but the Pharisees observed all the practices of the law to be seen, to be noticed, to attract attention to themselves and their good deeds. Jesus then points out the action of the poor widow. While the rich are perhaps attracting a lot of attention because of their large donations, she unobtrusively drops two small coins. No one even notices, her donation is too small to be worth counting, but Jesus notices. He makes her the object of his teaching on giving. "I tell you this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury; for they put in money they had over, but she from the little that she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on." In the eyes of God it is not quantity that counts. God is not impressed by how much we give. We do not need to have much in order to give, but we have to have a generous heart. We all have moments when we are called upon to sacrifice something. Sometimes we make it a point to tell others what sacrifices we have made. Yet when we love people deeply we do not count it as sacrifice. A mother who loves her children does not remind them: "See I am making this sacrifice for you!" She just does it silently because of her great love for her children. On the other hand people who are sensitive appreciate every little gift, every little kindness done by their loved ones. In love there is no big thing or small thing. The smallest gesture can assume great importance in the context of love. Our God is the God of small people and small things!

God's Juggler
You may have heard the story of God's Juggler. In the middle ages a juggler was juggling his coloured balls and pins in the market place when some monks came by. The juggler expressed his desire to be a monk. The monks said, "What can you do?" The juggler replied, "I juggle". The monks said, "Well, you will have to change your ways." The juggler became Brother Lawrence in the monastery. Years passed and one Christmas the monks decided that each one would present a masterpiece to the infant Jesus. All but Lawrence came up with an idea. On Christmas eve, Lawrence locked himself in the church. The monks thought he had gone mad. They ran up the choir loft and looked down. There was Lawrence juggling before the crib scene. They were going to go down and seize him as one gone berserk. But as Lawrence finished his juggling, the monks saw the infant in the manger reach out with a smile. Lawrence had given his all.
Source Unknown

When giving becomes a sacrifice
Mother Teresa told a story of 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 thirty cents. I want to give it to you." Mother Teresa thought for a moment: "If I take the thirty cents, 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 took the money. I have never seen such joy on anybody's face as I saw on the face of that beggar 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 the whole day and received only thirty cents. Thirty cents is such a small amount and I can get nothing with it, but as he gave it up 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."
Flor McCarthy in 'New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies'

The God of small things
In a certain art gallery a small picture was hanging in the hallway, close to the main door. Most visitors passed by with scarcely a glance in its direction, as they hurried on to the paintings which made the museum a Mecca for art lovers. The curator of the museum was very disappointed. He thought very highly of the little painting. So he decided to carry out a small experiment. One night he took the picture and hung it in a crooked manner. And what happened? Next day one out of two visitors stopped to look at it. The following night the curator decided to take his experiment one step further. He removed the painting altogether, leaving only the empty frame hanging there. And what happened? Everybody without exception stopped before the empty frame. And several went to the curator and asked. 'What happened to the lovely little painting that used to hang there?" - Do we notice the small things in daily life?
Flor McCarthy in 'New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies'


Giving from your need!

There was a vixen who had three cubs. On one occasion she fell sick and so she had to send the cubs one night to search for food. She told them to split up and go in different directions. The first cub was strong but very lazy, he chose the easiest route. He set off eastwards across flat land and found himself in a field stirring with rabbits. He killed one and ate it, then killed another and made off home with it. He was home in half an hour without a scratch on him. Seeing the rabbit his mother exclaimed, "What a fine rabbit you've brought back. Well done!" The second cub was clever, he headed westwards across rolling fields. Seeing the lights of a farm house he approached it, finding a hole in the fence he entered and killed two geese and dragged them away. When at a safe distance he ate half of one, the other half he buried, determined to come back the next day to finish it. He was home in half an hour with the other goose, having taken care to wash the blood off himself in a stream. "Well done!" his mother said. "What a splendid goose you've brought back." The third cub was weak and sickly but he had no other choice than to go northwards into hilly country. Here the farm houses were few but well guarded. As he passed one of the dogs tore his face through the wire and an angry farmer shot at him narrowly missing him. The night went quickly, there was nothing to do but to head home. On the way home he managed to catch a sparrow. Though he was ready to collapse from exhaustion and hunger, he decided to take it home to his mother. He got back home covered with mud, cuts and bruises. On seeing him his mother asked, "What kept you?" "I ran into trouble" he answered feebly. "And what have you brought home? With that the cub produced the sparrow. The two other cubs burst out laughing, ridiculing him. "Take it away from here and get out of my sight. Obviously I wasted my time feeding and caring for you" said his mother. -In one sense the mother was right. Judged by results the little cub had come a long way behind the other two. But in another sense the mother couldn't have been more wrong. Judged by the effort made and the spirit shown, the little cub was way ahead of the others. The little cub reminds us of the widow in today's Gospel. We live in a world in which results are the only thing that matters. Prizes and certificates are given for results, never for efforts. But Jesus has a different yardstick. For him it is not the size of the offering that counts, but the cost of it. In other words, it's not the result that counts, but the effort made and the spirit shown.
Flor McCarthy in 'New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies'

Someone to divide with
At the turn of the century, a man wrote in his diary the story of a young newsboy he met on a street near his home in London. It was well known in the neighbourhood that the boy was an orphan. All attempts to place the boy in either an institution or a foster home were thwarted, because the boy refused each offer of help and ran away when attempts were made to confine him. "I can take care o' myself jest fine, thank ye!" he would say to kindly old ladies who questioned whether he'd had his porridge that day. Indeed, he never looked hungry and his persistence at selling papers, load after load, gave the impression he spoke the truth. But the streets are a lonely place for a child to live, and the man's diary reflects a conversation he had with the child about his living arrangements. As he stopped to buy his paper one day, the man bought a little extra time by fishing around in his pocket for coins and asked the boy where he lived. He replied that he lived in a little cabin in an impoverished district of the city near the river bank. This was something of a surprise to the man. With more interest, he inquired, "well, who lives with you?" The boy answered, "Only Jim. Jim is crippled and can't do no work. He's my Pal." Now clearly astounded that the child appeared to be supporting not only himself but also someone who was unable to contribute any income the man noted," you'd be better off without him?" The answer came with not a little scorn- a sermon in a nutshell: "No sir, I couldn't spare Jim. I wouldn't have nobody to go home to. An' say, mister, I wouldn't want to live and work with nobody to divide with, would you?"
Alice Gray in 'Stories for the Heart'

Significance
I had a college student who was a victim of cerebral palsy. He was able to walk, but with great difficulty as his legs and arms would fly in all directions, out of control of the motor impulses which make walking a normally simple task. His speech was slurred, slow and agonizing, demanding great concentration on the part of the listener to understand. There was nothing wrong with his mind, however, and his sparkling personality and spontaneous smile were an inspiration to his classmates and to all who encountered him. One day he came to me vexed by a problem and asked me to pray for him. In the course of the prayer, I said something routine, with words like, "Oh, God, please help this man as he wrestles with his problem." When I opened my eyes the student was quietly weeping. I asked him what was wrong and he stammered his reply, "You called me a man -no one has ever called me a man before."
R.C. Sproul from 'The Hunger for Significance'

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From the Sermons.com

1. You Never Missed It

A priest once asked one of his parishioners to serve as financial chairman of his parish. The man, manager of a grain elevator, agreed on two conditions: no report would be due for a year, and no one would ask any questions during the year. At the end of the year he made his report. He had paid off the church debt of $200,000. He had redecorated the church. He had sent money to missions. He had $5,000 in the bank. Needless to say, everyone wanted to know how. The man quietly explained, "You people bring your grain to my elevator. As you did business with me, I simply withheld 10 percent and gave it to the church. You never missed it."  

David E. Leininger, The View from Jesus' Pew
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2. Giving Till It Hurts

Don't give till it hurts. Give till it helps. The story is told of a very wealthy man who had never been known for his generosity to the church. The church was involved in a big financial program and they resolved to pay him a visit. When the committee met with the man one afternoon, they said that in view of his considerable resources they were sure that he would like to make a substantial contribution to this program.

"I see," he said, "so you have it all figured out have you? In the course of your investigation did you discover that I have a widowed mother who has no other means of support but me?" No, they responded, they did not know that. "Did you know that I have a sister who was left by a drunken husband with five children and no means to provide for them?" No, they said, we did not know that either. "Well, sir, did you know also that I have a brother who is handicapped due to an automobile accident and can never work another day to support his wife and family?" 

Embarrassingly, they responded, no sir, we did not know that either. "Well," he thundered triumphantly, "I've never given any of them a cent so why should I give anything to you?"

Like that man, most of us never give till it hurts or helps. It is interesting to me that people who tithe in the church never speak of it as hurting. My wife and I tithe and it has not made life painful for us in the least. We started discussing some days ago what our pledge to the church for next year would be and how we could increase it. That doesn't sound like it hurts does it? It is the grudging giver, who is the one who always registers the complaint: At that church all they talk about is money." So let us get off of this notion of give till it hurts so that we affirm we give till it helps.
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3. Humor: Now That I Have Your Undivided Attention

 A businessman who needed millions of dollars to clinch an important deal went to the temple to pray for the money. By chance he sat next to a man who was praying for $100 to pay an urgent debt.  

The businessman took out his wallet and pressed $100 into the other man's hand. Overjoyed, the man got up and left the temple. The businessman then closed his eyes and prayed: "And now, Lord, that I have your undivided attention . . ."

 Traditional. Told by Billy Strayhorn
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4. The Widow's Mite for $39.95 

An advertisement I ran across read: "Now you too can own a Genuine Coin From The Time of Jesus: The Widow's Mite. It's a minor miracle that this coin has survived and now people of faith can study, cherish, and protect it for future generations. It's yet another miracle that they're so affordable."

Then, the ad goes on to quote the Scripture we just heard, "While our limited supplies last, you may order the 2,000 year old Widow's Mite for only $39.95 plus shipping and handling. Remember this is the genuine coin mentioned in the Holy Bible and it makes a perfect gift for your child, grandchild, or favorite clergyman."

The advertisement makes it sound like your buying the actual coin the widow dropped into the receptacle. Of course, you are not. It doesn't exist. Harder still is to purchase the woman's attitude of generosity, which is of greater value in today's market. 

Brett Blair
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5. It's How You Give

Abraham Lincoln, was once hired by a man to sue someone else because they owed him $2.50. Not a large amount, but in the l860's it was. Lincoln didn't want to take the case but his client insisted. So Abe asked for a $l0.00 retainer fee up front. His client handed him the $l0. Lincoln then gave the man who owed $2.50 half of the ten. The man promptly paid his debt and everyone went home happy. It's not what you give, it is HOW you give. God wants us to give of ourselves joyfully without expecting anything in return. 

Keith Wagner
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6. I Have a Dollar 

The Junior Sunday School Teacher asked her eight eager children if they would give $1,000,000 to the missionaries. "YES!" they all screamed!! "Would you give $1,000?" Again they shouted, "YES!" "How about $100?" "Oh, YES we would!" they all agreed!! "Would you give just a dollar to the missionaries?" she asked. The boys exclaimed "YES!" just as before except for Johnny. "Johnny," the teacher said as she noticed the boy clutching his pocket, "why didn't you say 'YES' this time?" "Well," he stammered, "I HAVE a dollar." 

Traditional
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The danger of pride is that it feeds on goodness.
Traditional
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7. A Symbol of Hope 

Ruele Howe tells about growing up with his parents in the country. When he was 15 years old, the house caught on fire. They escaped with only the clothes on their backs. There were no close neighbors to help so he and his father walked to a distant village to get supplies. As they returned they saw something that stayed with Ruele Howe all those years after. Beside the charred remains of what had been their house, his mother had laid out lunch on a log. She had placed a tin can filled with wildflowers on the log. It was a symbol of hope in the midst of tragedy.

This is the Christian faith, isn't it? She didn't try to cover up the disaster with flowers, but in the midst of that gloomy scene she had placed a symbol of hope.

These two coins that the widow placed in the temple treasury were her wildflowers. This was her symbol, her way of saying I know God will provide.

King Duncan
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8. Who Is Important? 

It's easy to become confused about who's important in our society. We are encouraged to think of celebrities as most important. Television shows are devoted to their lives, and magazines and newspapers keep us informed of their every move. The movers and the shakers, too, are touted as important. Imagine how powerful the chairman of the Federal Reserve is! With a single sentence in a speech he can send the stock market plummeting. These are the people we are taught to regard as important.  

In the meantime many of our elderly waste away in nursing homes, forgotten even by their families. They don't make the news, aren't featured in magazines and newspapers, and are regarded simply as society's "throw-always." Thankfully widows today do not have the meager social status they had in Jesus' time. However, it is not hard to find contemporary parallels to the poor widow of this story. Just consider the homeless people in our communities. 

Robert Kysar
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9. Cordially Yours 

I'm reminded of the story of the young soldier who was overseas. He was writing his girlfriend. He wanted to send her a telegram because he thought that would make more of an impression. So he gave the telegraph operator a message to send. The message was this: "I love you. I love you. I love you. John."

The telegraph operator said, "Son, for the same amount of money you can send one more word." So he amended his message and it read like this: "I love you. I love you. I love you. Cordially, John."

Many of us profess our love for God, "I love you, I love you, I love you," but when push comes to shove our devotion is more like "cordially" than it is love.
This widow put her money where her heart was. She gave all she had. And Jesus praised her. 

King Duncan
From Fr. Tony Kadavil:

10. Mother Teresa’s mite:  

Consider David Porter's comment on Mother Teresa: "She was born as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu (AG-nes GOHN-jah BOY-yah-jee-oo), to Albanian parents in Yugoslavia. She went to India in 1929 as a member of the Loreto Order of nuns, after learning English in their Motherhouse in Dublin Ireland.  There she taught for many years and became principal of the school.  In 1946, she received her 'call within a call' to work with the poorest of the poor.  By 1948, she had received permission to leave the Loreto order and had trained in the nursing skills she would need to carry out her calling.  She prayed, "Oh God, if I cannot help these people in their poverty and their suffering, let me at least die with them, close to them, so that I can show them your love" [Mother Teresa: The Early Years, 67;  cited by Caroline J. Simon, "The Media and Mother Teresa," Perspectives, 12 (March, 1997), 3.]  Simon notes: "From this simple beginning, the Missionaries of Charity have grown to include 4,500 Sisters and Brothers, 755 homes for the children, the sick, the destitute and the dying and 1,369 medical clinics that serve 120,000 worldwide."  Mother Teresa's mite has might, and it's the ever-growing might of love in action.

11. A widow’s mite in the life of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.

By birth and marriage, Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton was linked to the first families of New York and enjoyed the fruits of living in high society.  Reared a staunch Episcopalian by her mother and stepmother, she learned the value of prayer, Scripture reading and a nightly examination of conscience.  At 19, Elizabeth was the belle of New York.  She married a handsome, wealthy businessman, William Magee Seton.  They had five children before his business failed, and William died of tuberculosis.  At 30, Elizabeth found herself widowed and penniless, with five small children to support.  While in Italy with her dying husband, Elizabeth had witnessed the Catholic Church in action, through the lives, beliefs and behavior of family friends.  Three basic elements in Catholicism led her to become a Catholic in March, 1805: a belief in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary as Mother of God, and a conviction that the Catholic Church traced its origin and priesthood in a direct line back to the apostles and to Christ.  When Elizabeth returned to the U. S., many of her family and friends rejected her because she had become a Catholic. To support her children, she opened a school in Baltimore with the cooperation of some of her friends.  From the beginning, her group was organized along the lines of the religious community which would only be founded officially in 1809.  Mother Seton became one of the keystones of the American Catholic Church.  She founded the first American religious community for women, the Sisters of Charity.  She opened the first American parish school and established the first American Catholic orphanage. All this she did in the span of 46 years while rearing her five children.  She died on January 4, 1821, and was buried in Emmitsburg, Maryland.  In 1963, Mother Seton was beatified, the first American-born citizen to receive this honor.  She was canonized in 1975.  Elizabeth Ann Seton was a real widow who offered her mite to God without reservation as the poor widow in today’s gospel did (Adapted from St. Anthony’s Messenger). 

12. Fanny Epps' mite has might of love:   

Mrs. Epps likes the time she spends with children. So she enjoys her time as a volunteer at the Norge Elementary School in Williamsburg, Virginia. There, she works with students who have mental and physical disabilities. Her day begins long before she goes on duty at 7 a.m. She has to catch a bus to get to the school. When she gets there, she greets Drew who has difficulty walking. Another one of her favorites has Down syndrome. He sits beside her, smiling. She turns on the tape recorder and plays "Jingle Bell Rock," while her students sing and clap enthusiastically. It takes a lot of energy to work all morning, five days a week, with these children. Oh, did I mention that Mrs. Epps is 99 years old? Wasted time, twisted values? "I don't want to act dead while I'm still alive," she says. Fanny Epps' mite has might, and it's the might of love!
  
13. Chicken and Pig: 

You know the old joke about the chicken and the pig that saw the church sign saying "Help feed the hungry."  The chicken said "That's a good idea!  Let's help by putting in our 'widow’s mite.'  Let's give ham and eggs."  The pig said "That's easy for you to say, but for me it's a total commitment!"

14. Church Collection 

A six-year-old boy, home from his first day at church, was asked what he thought of the Holy Mass. "It was OK," he replied, "but I think it was unfair that the pastor at the altar did all the work, and then a bunch of other people came around and took away all the money." Amen to that small lad's insight! 

15. The Bank or the Church 

A colleague once told how "a certain woman phoned her personal banker to arrange for the disposal of a $1,000 bond. The voice on the phone asked for clarification, "Is the bond for conversion or redemption?'' The confused woman paused and then inquired, "Am I talking to the bank or the church?''
*****
Sudha Murthy, chairperson, Infosys Foundation is known for her ability to glean interesting stories from the lives of ordinary people. The following is extracted from her latest collection, 'Bombay to Bangalore':
It was the beginning of summer. As I boarded the Udyan Express at Gulbarga, I saw that the 2nd class reserved compartment was jam-packed with people. I sat down and was pushed to the corner of the berth. The ticket collector came in and started checking people's tickets. Suddenly, he looked in my direction and asked, what about your ticket? 'I have already shown my ticket to you', I said.
'Not you madam; the girl hiding below your berth'. I realized that someone was sitting under my berth. When the TC (Ticket Collector) yelled at her, the girl came out of hiding. She was thin, scared and looked like she had been crying profusely. She must have been about 13 or 14 yrs old. The TC started forcibly pulling her out from the compartment. 

Suddenly, I had a strange feeling. 'Sir, I will pay for her ticket', I told the TC. He looked at me and said, 'Madam, if you give her 10 rupees, she will be much happier with that than with the ticket.' I didn't listen to him but bought her a ticket to the last destination, Bangalore, so that the girl could get down wherever she wanted. Slowly, she started talking. Her name was Chitra. She lived in a village near Bidar. Her father was a coolie and she had lost her mother at birth. Her father who had remarried, died a few months ago. Since her step mother started ill treating her, she left home in search of a better future.

By this time the train had reached Bangalore. I got down from the train and then I saw Chitra watching me with sad eyes. I took compassion on her and took her to our friend Ram's place. Ram managed shelter homes for boys and girl which were supported by Infosys. Chitra had found a home and new direction in her life. I always enquired about her well-being over the phone. Her progress was good and I wanted to sponsor her college studies. But she said, ' No, Akka. I would like to do diploma in computer science so that I can immediately get a job.'  She came out with flying colours in her diploma and obtained a job in a software company.  With her first salary, she bought me a saree and a box of sweets.

One day, when I was in Delhi, she called me up to say that her company is sending her to the USA. She wanted to take my blessings but I was here in Delhi. Years passed. Chitra was doing very well and was sending me e-mails regularly. Years later, I was in San Francisco attending the 'Kannada Koota', organized by the Kannada speaking families of California. I was staying in the same hotel where the Kannada meet was taking place. When I checked out of the hotel room and went to the reception to settle the bills, the receptionist said, 'Ma'am, you don't have to pay. The lady over there has already paid your bill.'  I turned around and found Chitra there, standing with a young man. She was looking very pretty in short hair. Her eyes were beaming with happiness. She hugged me and touched my feet. I was overwhelmed with joy. I was very happy to see the way things had turned out for Chitra. But I came back to my original question; 'Chitra, why did you pay my hotel bill?' Suddenly sobbing, she hugged me and said: 'Because you paid for my ticket from Bombay to Bangalore!


23 Additional anecdotes

1)  Mr Harakhchand Sawla’s mite: A young man in his thirties used to stand on the footpath opposite the famous Tata Cancer Hospital at Mumbai and stare at the crowd in front, fear plainly written upon the faces of the patients standing at death’s door; their relatives with equally grim faces running around.  These sights disturbed him greatly.  Most of the patients were poor people from distant towns. They had no idea whom to meet, or what to do. They had no money for medicines, not even food.  The young man, heavily depressed, would return home. ‘Something should be done for these people’, he would think. He was haunted by the thought day and night.  At last he found a way.  He rented out his own hotel that was doing good business and raised some money. From these funds he started a charitable activity right opposite Tata Cancer Hospital, on the pavement next to Kondaji Building.  He himself had no idea that the activity would continue to flourish even after the passage of 27 years.  The activity consisted of providing free meals for cancer patients and their relatives. Many people in the vicinity approved of this activity.  Beginning with fifty, the number of beneficiaries soon rose to hundred, two hundred, three hundred. As the numbers of patients increased, so did the number of helping hands.  As years rolled by, the activity continued, undeterred by the change of seasons, come winter, summer or even the dreaded monsoon of Mumbai. The number of beneficiaries soon reached 700. Mr Harakhchand Sawla, for that was the name of the pioneer, did not stop here. He started supplying free medicines for the needy. In fact, he started a medicine bank, enlisting voluntary services of three doctors and three pharmacists. A toy bank was opened for kids suffering from cancer.  The ‘Jeevan Jyot’ trust founded by Mr Sawla now runs more than 60 humanitarian projects. Sawla, now 57 years old, works with the same vigour. A thousand salutes to his boundless energy and his monumental contribution!  There are people in this country who look upon Sachin Tendulkar as ‘God’- for playing 200 test matches in 20 years, a few hundred one-day matches, and scoring 100 centuries and 30,000 runs.  But hardly anyone knows Harakhchand Sawla, let alone calls him ‘God’ for feeding free lunches to 10 to 12 lac cancer patients and their relatives. We owe this discrepancy to our mass media!  God resides in our vicinity. But we, like mad men run after ‘god-men’, styled variously as Bapu, Maharaj or Baba. All Babas, Maharajs and Bapus become multi-millionaires, but our difficulties, agonies and disasters persist unabated till death.  For the last 27 years, millions of cancer patients and their relatives have found ‘God’, in the form of Harakhchand Sawla.

1b) The Operation Smile mite: Consider William Magee, 52, and Kathleen Magee, 51, founders of Operation Smile.  One is a plastic surgeon and the other a social service worker.  Op Smile began in 1982.  Since then, it has performed surgery on 18,000 kids in 15 countries to correct — without charge — such disfigurements as cleft palates and burn scars, while training local doctors in the procedures.  Says William: “The world is changed by emotion.”  On June 20, 1996, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation awarded the group a $1 million prize to continue the work.  William and Kathleen Magee’s mite has might, and it’s the might of love.

2) The poorest state in the U.S. is the most charitable: An interesting study appeared on p. 17 in the January 13, 2003, issue of Time magazine. It was a study ranking each of the 50 states’ personal income levels as compared to their rate of charitable giving. The results were surprising. Massachusetts, with the fourth highest personal income in the country ranked last in charitable contributions. The citizens of New Hampshire ranked 6th overall in average personal income, but ranked 45th in the percentage of their income given to charitable causes. On the other end of the spectrum, the citizens of Mississippi ranked 49th in average personal income, the second poorest state in the nation. Yet, Mississippians ranked 6th in the nation in their percentage of charitable giving. It also ranked first in actual dollars contributed. In Mississippi, forty-ninth in income, Mississippians gave, on average, about forty percent more to charity than did their Yankee cousins!  The more you have, the less you give. What that reflects is your values. Converted to percentage of income contributed to charity, the disparity was even greater. Another fact emerged: Wealthy people tend to give more to secular charities than to religious institutions. Poorer families give mostly to religious institutions and their social ministries. What’s going on? Are lower income families more generous or more religious? Do rich people see more direct benefit to their well-being from museums, colleges, or concerts than from worship, outreach, and fellowship at their churches?

3) “All that I have today is what I gave away.” In 1930, George Pepperdine, who was the owner of Western Auto, sold all of his Western Auto stock and went to Los Angeles. He endowed a college for three million dollars it was named Pepperdine College. Everyone thought that college was secure forever. A $3 million endowment in 1930! But as the years passed, it became hemmed in there in Watts in the heart of L.A. I think there was only 15 acres of campus. Dr. Binowski, a young president came to Pepperdine with a great dream. He raised 100 million dollars and moved to that college to a hundred acres of the most-beautiful property in Southern California – Malibu, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The college has become a great university, with the name Pepperdine University. It has a huge endowment, a growing student body and an expanding national reputation. George Pepperdine, in 1930, would have never dreamed of the legacy he would leave the world. In 1950, George Pepperdine made some unfortunate investments, and lost everything. In 1962, he was virtually broke, except for Pepperdine College, now Pepperdine a university. Pepperdine wrote a book entitled, Faith is My Future. The opening sentence of that book is, “All that I have today is what I gave away.”

4) Evie Rosen’s mite: Evie Rosen, 69, of Wausau, Wisconsin, is no doubt busy right now, knitting afghans. The reason: Winter is almost upon us, and someone is going to need a blanket. Evie is a retired needlework shop owner. Disheartened by news stories about the homeless, Rosen wanted to do something to help. “Almost every home has little balls of yarn. I thought if we could all knit 7-inch by 9-inch rectangles, we could stitch them together and make a lot of afghans.” She started Operation Warm Up America in 1992, getting the word out to churches, retirement homes and craft shops. Last year, with help from other organizations, the group distributed 16,000 afghans! Evie Rosen’s mite has might, and it’s the might of love!

5) Norm and Lori Nickel’s mite: Norm and Lori Nickel of Abottsford, British Columbia, wanted to offer their services as a family to help others. So, with four of their children, they took three weeks off in the summer last year to work with SOAR (Sold Out and Radical, Youth Mission International’s teen program). They were placed in Reedley, California, where they worked with an organization called Community Youth Ministries that had been able to get into a Hispanic apartment complex housing 2,000 mostly illegal immigrants, 1,500 of whom were kids. They did Vacation Bible School, sports camps, drama and various other activities with the children. Lori says: “I could feel God working through our hands as we played with the children, our mouths as we verbally shared his love, and our eyes and ears as we saw and heard their hurts and pains. Just to think that God had set our family apart for three weeks so that he could convey his love and compassion to hurting people was life-changing for me.” Norm and Lori Nickel’s mite has might, and it is the might of love!

6) Paul’s mite has might: Paul Beyer calls it “the Lord’s work.” Beyer lives in Leola, Pennsylvania. Every week for 35 years he has driven a truck to New York City, a six-hour round trip, to deliver food to the Bowery Mission, located in one of the seedier sections of Manhattan. His truck is loaded with produce, canned meats and pastries which the Mennonite farmers and businesses near his town have donated. He says that people trust him with the food he takes and that the reward is to see all the happy faces when the food arrives. Paul’s mite has might, and it’s the might of love!

7) Mite of volunteers: In Santa Monica, California, volunteer pilots can fly with Angel Flight, an organization that helps the disadvantaged get to places where they can get the appropriate medical diagnosis and treatment. In 1995-1996, over 9,000 volunteers assisted the Red Cross in local relief efforts around the country. In Toronto, if you are a youth 16-24, you qualify to be placed with another youth aged 6-15 suffering from emotional, behavioral and social problems in a program called Youth Assisting Youth. The program has a phenomenal success rate of 98 percent in keeping kids in school and out of the criminal justice system.

8) When Giving Becomes A Sacrifice: St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) of Calcutta said, “If you give what you don’t need, it isn’t giving.” She used to tell a story of 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 fifteen rupees (thirty cents). I want to give it to you.” Mother Teresa thought for a moment: “If I take the thirty cents, 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 took the money. I have never seen such joy on anybody’s face as I saw on the face of that beggar at the thought that he too could give to Mother Teresa.” She said that gift meant more to her than winning the Nobel Prize. Mother Teresa went on: “It was a big sacrifice for that poor man, who had sat in the sun the whole day long and received only thirty cents. Thirty cents is such a small amount and I can get nothing with it, but as he gave it up 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.” (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies).

9) “So why should I do anything for you?” There is a story told of a wealthy man who had never been what anyone would call a generous giver. His Church was having a big expansion program and financial campaign, so they resolved to visit him. In order to succeed where they had so often failed, they appointed a committee to study the situation. Finally the committee called on the prospect and told him that in view of his resources they were sure that he would want to make a rather substantial contribution. “I see,” he said, “that you have considered it all quite carefully. In the course of your investigation did you discover that I have an aged, widowed mother who has no other means of support?” No, they hadn’t known that. “Did you know that I have a sister who was left by a drunken husband with five small children and no means of providing for them?” No, they hadn’t known that. “Did you know that I have a brother who was crippled in an accident and will never be able to do another day’s work in his life to support himself and his family?” No, they hadn’t known that. “Well,” he thundered triumphantly, “I’ve never done anything for them, so why should I do anything for you?” (Ray Balcomb, Stir What You’ve Got). That makes the point in a sadistically humorous way. It’s not a matter of giving ‘til it hurts, but giving ‘til it helps. To be sure, like that man, most of us never give ‘til it hurts, much less giving ‘til it helps.

10)  I would give it to the poor.” A government social worker was visiting New England farms. He had the authority to give federal dollars to poor farmers. He found an elderly widow farming a few acres. Her house was clean but tiny. There did not appear to be much food in the house. The windows had no screens to keep out the summer flies. The exterior needed a paint job. He wondered how she could survive. He asked, “What would you do if the government gave you five hundred dollars?” Her answer was, “I would give it to the poor.” Do most Catholics give a fair share of their income to the Church and to charities? A Gallup poll answered that query.  In a recent year, American Catholics gave 1.3% of their income to parish and charities. But Protestants gave 2.4% and Jews 3.8%. A survey reveals while 44% of Baptists tithe giving to their parishes and charities, only 4% of Catholics do. Many Catholics are more generous to waiters than to God. They give up to 20% of their bill. That is double-tithing. Our comparative tightness with our dollars comes despite Rousseau’s admonition. “When a man dies, he carries in his hands only that which he has given away.” (Fr. James Gilhooley).

11) Widow’s mite in the Old Testament: Elijah had to flee, went off to the desert, east of the Jordan, where there was even less food and no water. He was fed by ravens, until God sent him to a widow in a little dessert village named Zarephath. That’s all we know about her. No, she’s the widow of Zarephath. No name is given for her. Elijah meets her as she’s gathering sticks for fuel to cook some food for herself and her son. He asks her for a drink of water and she gives it to him. Then he asks for food. She replies, “All I have is some barley meal and a cruse of oil. I’m about to make bread for myself and my son.” He asks her if he can have some. She gives it to him. She shares what she has for herself and her son, shares out of her poverty, because he’s in need. And behold, there is enough It’s a miracle. It’s the miracle that happens when you give all you have in trust. It wasn’t much, but when she gave there was enough, and God kept her supplies from running out until the drought and famine finally ended.

12) “They died from the cold within.”: Dr. Thomas Lane Butts tells the story of six people who froze to death around a campfire on a bitterly cold night. Each had a stick of wood they might have contributed to the fire, but for reasons satisfactory to themselves each person refused to give what they had. A woman would not give her stick of wood because there was an African-American person in the circle. A homeless man would not give because there was a rich man there. The rich man would not give because his contribution would warm someone who was obviously shiftless and lazy. Another would not give his stick when he recognized one not of his particular religious faith. The African-American man withheld his piece of wood as a way of getting even with the whites for all they had done to him and his race. And the fire died as each person withheld his/her piece of fuel for reasons justifiable to them. This story was originally told in a poem that ends with these tragic lines: “Six logs held fast in death’s still hand was proof of human sin; They did not die from the cold without; they died from the cold within.” (Rev. Siegfried S. Johnson) The wealthy people in our story were cold within, but this poor widow glowed with her love for God and for His Temple.

13) The Paradox of Our Time in History is that we spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy it less.  We have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences, but less time; more medicine, but less wellness.  We read too little, watch TV too much and pray too        seldom.  We have multiplied our possessions but reduced our values.  These are the times of tall men, and short character; steep profits, and shallow relationships.  These are the days of two incomes, but more divorce; of fancier houses, but more broken homes.  We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life; we’ve added years to life, not life to years; we’ve cleaned up the air but polluted the soul.

14) Widow’s mite necklace: Writer Angela Akers tells of traveling on American Airlines. Out of sheer boredom, she began flipping through the airplane shopping catalogue. These catalogues are perfect for bored passenger with too much money on their hands. They are filled with expensive doodads. Among the jewelry items, there was a necklace that caught Ms. Akers’ eye. It was labeled “The Widow’s Mite Necklace.” No, they weren’t kidding. Some jeweler had taken a mite, an ancient coin that was practically worthless in Jesus’ time, and coated it in sterling silver, then hung the trinket on a glittering, sterling silver chain. Or, for a few hundred dollars more, you could get that same necklace in 14 karat gold. I wonder what Jesus would have thought of a gold-plated widow’s mite.

15) Supersize your vision and you will supersize your giving. John Maxwell tells us that during World War II parachutes were sewn by machine and packed by hand. It was a tedious, painstakingly repetitive process. Workers crouched over sewing machines and stitched for eight hours a day, producing an endless line of fabric, all the same, boring color. They folded, packed and stacked the parachutes. How could they maintain peak concentration in the midst of such boring labor? Every morning they met in a large group and were made to ask, “How would I feel if the parachute I am packing today were tomorrow strapped to the back of my son, my husband, my father, my brother?” These workers worked sacrificially and uncomplainingly, because someone had helped them connect their little contribution to the larger picture, to the larger mission of saving lives.
It’s easy to lose the larger picture of the Church’s mission in the day-to-day work of the Church. We need constantly to be reminded to connect what we are doing to the larger scope, the larger mission of the Church. Supersize your vision and you will supersize your giving.

16)  Widow’s commitment: There was once a man who had a disabled leg, but he was determined to walk. And so every day he got up, he went out and he walked. Eventually he worked his way up to several miles a day. One day he was out in the countryside and for some reason he felt exhausted – far more than usual. He hoped someone might come along and offer him a ride. Sure enough, a friend of his came riding along on a racehorse and noticed that his crippled buddy seemed exhausted. His racehorse-riding friend naturally volunteered to loan the man his racehorse. “Just be careful, though, this is kind of a peculiar racehorse. He’s been trained a bit differently than normal. When you want him to go, you don’t say, ‘Gitty Up!’ you say, ‘Praise the Lord!’ He won’t move if you say, ‘Gitty Up!’ And once you get him going, if you want to speed up, just repeat, ‘Praise the Lord!’ And then, when you want him to stop, you don’t say ‘Whoa!’ You say, ‘Amen.’ If you remember that you won’t have any problem at all.” Grateful for his friend’s generosity the man mounted the racehorse, got comfortable in the saddle and said, “Praise the Lord” and the racehorse moved right out. Now that he was riding the man found that he was enjoying himself so he decided to take the scenic route home and speed the racehorse up a bit as he was going so he said again, “Praise the Lord!” As he came around a curve in a bend he saw a cliff where the bridge had been disassembled for repair. Quickly the man attempted to stop the racehorse, “Whoa!, Whoa!, Whoa!,” but the racehorse didn’t stop. He was getting closer and closer to the dangerous edge, but he just couldn’t think of the right word. He was now able to peer over the cliff and see just how far down it really was when – all of a sudden – the man was able to recall the right word to stop. “Amen!” he cried, and the racehorse stopped right on the brink of the cliff. Overjoyed, the man raised his hands toward the sky and shouted, “Praise the Lord!” Friends, there’s something to glean from this story: commitment matters. Whether it’s the manner in which you ride a horse or the way in which stay faithful to God – commitment matters. Today’s Scripture reading from Mark is one of the most shining examples of commitment in all of Scripture, for today we are allowed a glimpse of the power of the widow’s mite. (Rev. Chris Perkins).

17) Someone to divide with: At the turn of the century, a man wrote in his diary the story of a young newsboy he met on a street near his home in London. It was well known in the neighborhood that the boy was an orphan. All attempts to place the boy in either an institution or a foster home were thwarted, because the boy refused each offer of help and ran away when attempts were made to confine him. ‘I can take care o’ myself jest fine, thank ye!” he would say to kindly old ladies who questioned whether he’d had his porridge that day. Indeed, he never looked hungry and his persistence at selling papers, load after load, gave the impression he spoke the truth. But the streets are a lonely place for a child to live, and the man’s diary reflects a conversation he had with the child about his living arrangements. As he stopped to buy his paper one day, the man bought a little extra time by fishing around in his pocket for coins and asked the boy where he lived. He replied that he lived in a little cabin in an impoverished district of the city near the riverbank. This was something of a surprise to the man. With more interest, he inquired, “Well, who lives with you?” The boy answered, “Only Jim. Jim is crippled and can’t do no work. He’s my Pal.” Now clearly astounded that the child appeared to be supporting not only himself but also someone who was unable to contribute any income the man noted, ”You’d be better off without him?” The answer came with not a little scorn- a sermon in a nutshell: “No sir, I couldn’t spare Jim. I wouldn’t have nobody to go home to. An’ say, mister, I wouldn’t want to live and work with nobody to divide with, would you?” (Alice Gray in Stories for the Heart; quoted by Fr. Botelho). 

18) History will be kind to me!” When asked about the possible permanent damage the Watergate scandal would have upon his political career, Richard Nixon replied, “History will be kind to me!” Only time will tell if Mr. Nixon was right and if modern historians will assess his political accomplishments as great enough to outweigh his moral failures when they tell the story of his administration. Such was not the case, however, with the political leaders of Israel and Judah. When the Deuteronomic historian set about the task of recording the deeds of the kings of his people, he evaluated them using a very different set of criteria. Rather than praise their diplomacy or achievements in foreign affairs, he dealt with each of Israel’s and Judah’s kings according to their moral rectitude and fidelity to the Covenant and the Law. With the brief statement, “And he did evil before the Lord,” the overwhelming majority of the kings of Israel and Judah were written off as infidels and sinners. Jesus too writes off in today’s Gospel the rich and proud Pharisees who displayed their generosity in the temple by contrasting them with the mite of the widow. (P.D. Sanchez).

19) A box full of loving kisses: Some time ago, a father punished his 3-year-old daughter for wasting a roll of gold wrapping paper. Money was tight, and he became infuriated when the child tried to decorate a box to put under the tree.

Nevertheless, the little girl brought the gift to her father the next morning and said, “This is for you, Daddy.” He was embarrassed by his earlier overreaction, but his anger flared again when he found that the box was empty. He yelled at her, “Don’t you know that when you give someone a present, there’s supposed to be something inside of it?” The little girl looked up at him with tears in her eyes and said, “Oh, Daddy, it’s not empty. I blew kisses into the box. All for you, Daddy.” The father was crushed. He put his arms around his little girl, and he begged her forgiveness. He kept the gold box by his bed for years. Whenever he was discouraged, he would take out an imaginary kiss and remember the love of the child who had put it there.  We require total surrender to do such giving. The tragedy of our lives is that often we hold back some part of us. There are many barriers that block our total surrender to God: fear, pride, selfishness and confusion. It is time that we examined ourselves, and practiced our charity with an element of love and sacrifice. (Fr. Bobby).

20) “Find someone in need and do something to help that person.” Dr. Karl Menninger, the famous psychiatrist, once gave a lecture on mental health and afterward answered questions from the audience. “What would you advise a person do to,” asked one man, “if that person felt a nervous breakdown coming on?” Most people expected the doctor to reply, “Consult a psychiatrist.” To their astonishment, he replied, “Lock up your house, go across the highway, find someone in need and do something to help that person.” The Gospel message for this Sunday is about giving. Christ praises the poor widow who drops only two small coins in the coffer of the Temple, unlike the others who “put in their surplus money’” (v. 43). The poor widow received the praise of Jesus because she put her last money, though she was poor. As Jesus said: “she gave all she had to live on.” The message of Jesus is very clear: Every person is capable of sharing no matter how poor or needy he is. (Fr. Benitez).

21) “You called me your bother.” Walking along a street in Russia during a famine, the great writer Leo Tolstoy met a beggar. Tolstoy searched in his pockets to look for something he could give. But there was none. He had earlier given away all his money. In his pity, he reached out, took the beggar in his arms, embraced him, kissed him on his hollow checks and said: “Don’t be angry with me, my brother, I have nothing to give.” The beggar’s face lit up. Tears flowed from his eyes, as he said: “But you embraced me and kissed me. You called me brother – you have given me yourself – that is a great gift.” (Fr. Benitez).

22) You are welcome! One-night years ago, a cloudburst stranded a newly-wed couple on a remote country road. Unable to go any further, they got out of their car and set out on foot towards a dimly lit farmhouse. When they reached the farmhouse, an elderly couple carrying a kerosene lamp met them at the door. Explaining their predicament, the young man asked: “Could you put us up till morning? A place on the floor or a few easy chairs would be fine.” Just then a few grains of rice slipped from the young lady’s hair and fell to the floor. The elderly couple glanced down at it and exchanged a knowing glance. “Why surely children” said the elderly woman. “We just happen to have a spare bedroom. You get your things from the car while my husband and I freshen it up a bit.” The next morning the newly-weds got up early and prepared to leave without disturbing the elderly couple. They dressed quietly, put a ten-dollar bill on the dresser, and tiptoed down the stairs. When they opened the door to the living room, they found the old couple asleep in chairs. They had given the newly-weds their only bedroom. The young man had his wife wait a minute while he tiptoed back upstairs and put another five dollars on the dresser. (Mark Link)

23) Copper coin Gandhi received: Mahatma Gandhi went from city to city, village to village collecting funds for the Charkha Sangh (Hand Spinners Association).  During one of his tours he addressed a meeting in Orissa. After his speech a poor old woman got up. She was bent with age, her hair was grey and her clothes were in tatters. The volunteers tried to stop her, but she fought her way to the place where Gandhiji was sitting. “I must see him,” she insisted and going up to Gandhiji touched his feet. Then from the folds of her sari she brought out a copper coin and placed it at his feet. Gandhiji picked up the copper coin and put it away carefully. The Charkha Sangh funds were under the charge of Jamnalal Bajaj. He asked Gandhiji for the coin but Gandhiji refused. “I keep cheques worth thousands of rupees for the Charkha Sangh,” Jamnalal Bajaj said laughingly “yet you won’t trust me with a copper coin.” “This copper coin is worth much more than those thousands,” Gandhiji said. “If a man has several lakhs and he gives away a thousand or two, it doesn’t mean much. But this coin was perhaps all that the poor woman possessed. She gave me all she had. That was very generous of her. What a great sacrifice she made. That is why I value this copper coin more than a crore of rupees.”

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