32nd Sun B     –   The Mighty Mite

Jesus doesn’t call it the widow’s “mite.” We do. It was the wealthy who gave the mite, giving from their surplus but keeping the rest. Maybe we should call the story the rich man’s mite. To give them their dues, these people were not stingy; they had lots of money and they shared it. Jesus watched them but said nothing.  However, when a poor widow put in the box only two small coins and keeping nothing back for herself, Jesus was impressed. He announced that she put more in than all the others – “everything she possessed, all she had to live on.” The Gospel story is trying to tell us there’s something bigger going on here than almsgiving and the obvious contrast between the generosity of a poor widow and the hypocrisy of wealthy scribes. Playing in the background is the reality and meaning of  divine love.I remember someone many years ago enumerating four different types of giving. The first is grudge giving: I hate to part with this fifty dollar bill. The second is duty giving: I must match what the Joneses give. The third is calculated giving: I part with my money with a lively sense of favours to come; raffle tickets, casino nights and bingo fit very nicely into this category – or people will notice my wonderful generosity and hopefully praise me. The final category is gratitude giving: I part with my funds because God is generous to me. I think the widow in the Gospel fits very comfortably into this category. She gave everything she possessed as a response to God’s love and not as doing a moral duty in order to have a claim on his love. She represents all who reach out to others.

Ringing in the back of my mind are Jesus’ words to Simon the Pharisee about the sinful woman who joyfully and generously cared for him when he had been neglected by his host. “She has shown great love because her many sins have been forgiven her” – Luke 7:47. She had encountered the touch of divine forgiveness. The poor widow in the Gospel represents all who have encountered God’s caring love. Her response is joyful extravagance, gratitude-giving ‘in excelsis’. People who are captured by God’s love are empowered to give handsomely and greatheartedly. The rich young man who was asked by Jesus to go sell all he had  and give to the poor failed to rise to the fly. Sadness rather than gladness was his response.  Pope Francis has declared more than once: “The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus” – The Joy of the Gospel. Encountering Jesus is key.

The call of the gospel is to personal conversion and transformation – to extravagance and munificence, not prudence or shrewd calculation. We can do it once in a while. No one who has drunk the wine of extravagance will ever be satisfied with caution, parsimony or limiting themselves to a religion of moral obligation. Total gift brings total joy and freedom. Total love results in total reaction. The measure of one’s response will be the measure of divine love that has been given free, gratis and for nothing. Prodigality is the price. The always quotable and convincing Saint Teresa of Kolkata once said the same thing but differently. “It is not enough to give your money; you also have to give something of yourself.”

Fr. QQ – 3/11/2021

  Were not our hearts burning within us

           as he spoke to us on the way,

      and opened the Scriptures to us?  –  Luke 24: 31                                                                               

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