Sacrificial Generosity – The Poor Widow’s Mite
ProLifeCorner- Mark 12: 38-44
“For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but [this poor widow] from her poverty …”
It was a beautiful wedding reception: a simple, elegant supper with music and dancing. But the bride and groom arranged with the caterer to pack up the leftover food and bring it to the local soup kitchen. The bride and groom included a cake and bottles of sparkling cider. The couple made places of welcome for the poor at their wedding banquet.
With their kids gone, they have more room than they can use. So when the church calls asking for a place for a woman going through a break-up or a couple visiting for a funeral or parents whose child is being treated at a nearby medical center, they welcome them into their home. Other empty-nesters in the parish have been inspired by their example.
“God welcomes us all into his house,” the couple says. “Why shouldn’t we consider doing the same?”
Today, we hear about the widow’s mite from St. Mark’s Gospel. Our Lord, surrounded by His disciples watches people putting offerings into the treasury. This was a place in the women’s courtyard, where there were various collection boxes for the offerings of the faithful. Just then, something happens whose significance Jesus wants His disciples and us to notice: a poor widow puts in two small coins, of very little material value. He describes this as the greatest offering of all, praising the sacrificial generosity of giving alms for this purpose, particularly that of those people who give part of what they need. Our Lord is moved by this tiny offering because in her case it implies a big sacrifice. St John Chrysostom comments that, “The Lord does not look at the amount offered but at the affection (and sacrifice) with which it is offered,” Generosity (and sacrifice) are the essence of almsgiving. This woman teaches us that we can move God’s heart if we do so for the Love of Him, even if the act seems trivial!
My brothers and sisters in Christ, the poor widow in today’s gospel and the folks mentioned in my opening stories have taken to heart the essence of Jesus’ words in the Gospel – sacrificial generosity!
As we near the end of the liturgical year, I would like to conclude with this story from the life of St. Therese of Liseaux, the little flower, who became one of the Church’s greatest saints in modern times and who has recently been named a Doctor of the Church for her “Little Way.”
One evening, after a very long, difficult and demanding day, St. Therese had just concluded her daily prayers in the convent chapel. It was getting late and she was battling an overwhelming sense of fatigue and weariness.
On her way back to her cell for well needed sleep after this rather arduous day, from the corner of her eye, she noticed some trash in a remote corner of her convent. It appeared very unsightly and smelled equally repugnant. She was tempted to walk by and continue on to her room, which became more desirous and more intense as she headed in that direction.
But, at the last possible moment, fighting the temptation to satisfy her personal desire for comfort, she offered to her Lord and God Jesus Christ a renunciation of her will and presented to Him a small and loving gift of cleaning up the repugnant trash before she retired for the evening. It wasn’t easy, but St. Therese offered this minor inconvenience up to Jesus, out of love for Him which gave her the motivation and strength to accomplish this seemingly trivial act.
After she had accomplished her inconvenient and repugnant act for the Love of her God, St. Therese went back to her cell exhausted and fell immediately to sleep. In the middle of the night, however, she was awoken by the spirit of a man who had just died. This spirit said to St. Therese that because out of her love for God she made what appeared to be a minor and inconvenient sacrifice against her will, God was so pleased at this sacrifice that it merited for this man on his death bed, the grace enough for him to be sorry for his sins and therefore be saved from going to hell. St. Theresa’s small sacrifice for the love of God merited God’s grace to save a soul on his deathbed. The man’s spirit thanked St. Therese and then disappeared. God is never outdone in generosity!
By doing something we normally wouldn’t do for someone during the ordinary course of our daily lives and when we generously offer these simple and seemingly trivial sacrifices and inconveniences and repugnant actions to God out of simple love for Him, we might merit from Him the salvation of some soul on their deathbed, or perhaps the conversion of some hardened sinner, or possibly afford a soul in purgatory some relief of their purification, or prevent something bad from happening to some innocent, or maybe merit something good to happen that ordinarily would not. And to top it off, we increase our glory and capacity to be happier in heaven – this is what is referred to by Jesus as storing up our treasure in heaven.
The kingdom of God is realized only in our embracing Christ’s spirit of sacrificial generosity: sacrificial generosity that puts the common good before self-interest and profit, sacrificial generosity that compels us to place the needs of others above our own wants, and sacrificial generosity that finds fulfillment in the mercy and kindness we can extend to others.
Mary, Virgin Most Charitable, pray for us!
32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B
Sunday, November 8th, 2015
Mark 12: 38-44