32nd Sunday B - A Shorter Reflection

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.”

The two widows – in the Gospel as well as the widow of Zarephath in the first reading – are generous, genuine givers. The widow of Zarephath gave to Elijah her last meal and was ready to die afterwards. The poor widow in the Gospel gave “all she had, her whole livelihood” to God.

Many people give because they are pressured to do so. Some would give for the motives of honor and prestige. And a few would give because they want to get something in return. It’s been said that there are three kinds of givers: GRUDGE givers, DUTY givers, and LOVE givers. Grudge givers give but do it reluctantly. Duty givers give with a sense of obligation. Love givers give because they want to. They do it freely and joyfully motivated by love or compassion.

True and generous giving must be sincere. It must be coming from the heart. The real value of giving is not measured by the amount given. If this is the case, then, everybody can afford to do this, but real giving is the generous giving of oneself, a sort of sacrifice on the part of the giver. In the Gospel, the contrast between the widow and others, is not how much they gave, but how they gave. All the others gave from their abundance. The word for "abundance" implies having more than one needs. Their giving came from what they didn't need -- from their excess -- the leftovers. They may have given large amounts, but it didn't cost them anything. But the poor widow gave all she had, her whole livelihood ie true and generous giving

There was an aircraft crash and all the passengers died. The investigation report said that the aircraft had engine trouble. It was caused by a tiny spare part wrongly installed in the engine. Little things don’t necessarily mean of less value than the bigger ones. But oftentimes we are misled by the quantity, and we miss the value of the quality. It was very easy to neglect the widow’s measly contribution, but not with Jesus. As 1Sam 16: says, “God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance. The Lord looks into the heart.”. The wealthy were just giving their surplus, but the widow was giving her whole life.

The story is told about a politician who sent a cheque of 1 crore to a charitable institution to the delight of the nuns running it. Their joy was short-lived when they saw that the cheque was not signed by the donor. Why? The donor wanted to remain anonymous!

No gift, whether of money, time, or talent, is too insignificant to give, if it is given to God".  Why was the poor widow so generous? It was because of her love for God. As we always say, “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” Jesus showed this when he gave his life on the cross: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” The widow had genuine and generous love, and that made her trust God completely, without any fear. She is one of those “poor in spirit” mentioned in the Beatitudes. In her poverty, she turned to God, and offered everything in total surrender and trust in divine providence. She offered her life not just money.

“Nobody is so poor as to have nothing to give; nobody is so rich as to have nothing to receive.” So then, “If you have much, give of your wealth; if you have little, give of your heart.” The lesson Jesus teaches us that our giving is more meaningful and meritorious when it is accompanied by some pain or sacrifice. Like the widow in the Gospel, may we learn to give from the heart, and with no strings attached. May we learn to be generous givers. (Sent by Fr Martin)