Summary: God wants us to help those with the fewest of resources, to learn from them
The Gospel story for today is often referred to as the story of “The Widow’s Mite” where “mite” refers to a small copper coin. An even better title might be “The Widow’s Plight.”
You see, fundraisers and stewardship leaders love this widow. Dutifully sitting at home all year, spending her time trying to scrape together another two pennies. We are happy to have her come to church once a year. We’ll even arrange a ride for her if we have to.
The reality, of course, is that she lives in a place with a mostly empty cupboard, with the electricity and water turned off.
She is our responsibility. Scripture abounds with exhortations to protect the widow, etc.
Jesus condemns the value system of those in power who devour the houses of widows.
The other widow in our Readings this Sunday was not in any better shape. She was about to eat her last meal with her son during a time of starvation.
We have to ask why did God send this prophet to seek nourishment from the poorest of the poor?
It’s because God wants us to help those with the fewest of resources, to learn from them. We should not underestimate the power of our baptism—we share as Priest, Prophet, and King—in Christ. We learn prophetically by helping the poor as God speaks to us from the experience.
The social justice teaching is that God destined the earth and all it contains for all peoples to be shared fairly under the guidance of justice tempered by charity. God gave the earth to the whole human race for the sustenance of all its members, without excluding or favoring anyone. The human person cannot do without the material goods that correspond to primary needs.
After considering “The Widow’s Plight,” let’s consider “The Widow’s Mite.”
It has been calculated that if the widow had invested her two small coins in the First National Bank of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago at 4% interested compounded semi-annually, the 4 trillion now in the account could pay off several national debts from several small countries.
Jesus’ sight of spotting the widow’s mite tells us that no offering is too small. No gesture of goodwill or honesty or integrity, when given with a good heart and good intent, should ever be diminished or despised. Good used clothes, an ultra sound machine for a pro-life crisis pregnancy center, school supplies, donations for the new homeless day center nearby started by the Catholic Mother of Light Center by St. Rita parish.
What we do think about those who have not received very much in terms of family background, education, etc., but are doing a lot of good giving of themselves generously with what they have.
The true measure of gifts is the percentage of one’s means which the gift represents, or that the true measure of gifts is the self-denial involved, or the cost for the giver.
A gift is measured by what is left, or that a gift is measured by one’s means. God sees more than the portion, he also sees the proportion. God notices not how much but from how much.
It is not the amount, but the spirit in which the gift is given; the attitude of self-forgetfulness, surrender, total commitment, gratitude, and trust in God to provide one’s needs.
Randy Leckliter tells the story of a man who got lost in the desert. After wandering around for a long time, suffering from a severely parched throat, he spotted a little shack in the distance. He made his way over to the shack and found a hand operated, heavy cast iron water pump with a small jug of water sitting next to it. A note was attached to the jug that read: “Pour all the water into the top of the pump to prime it, if you do this you will get all the water you need.” Back then, you always had to fill the pump with water (called priming the pump) before operating the pump. You prime the pump by pouring water in the top of the pump until it flows out of the spout.
So, now the thirsty man had to make one of two choices:
(1). He could trust the note and pour the water into the pump and if it worked he would have all the water he needed. However, if it didn't work he would still be thirsty, and he might die.
(2). He could choose to drink the water in the jug and get immediate satisfaction. The problem with this decision was that the jug might not contain enough water to meet his needs, and he still might die.
After thinking about it the man decided to risk it. He poured the entire jug into the pump and began working the handle. At first nothing happened, and he began to grow anxious. But he kept pumping and soon water started coming out. In fact, so much water came out that he drank all he wanted, took a shower, and filled every container he could find with the life-sustaining fluid. Because he was willing to give up immediate satisfaction and trust the note, he had all the water he needed. Now the note also said: “After you have finished, please refill the jug for the next traveler.” The man refilled the jug and added to the note: “Please prime the pump, believe me it works!”