The recent Gospel on the poor widow’s mite ( MK 12: 38-44) reminds us that loving God means giving Him everything we have at all times. The 3 poorest folks in Christ’s time were the handicapped, beggars, and widows. Given this reality, many would snicker at any poor widow foolish enough to give what little she had to corrupt men running a corrupt temple. However, we might do well to consider three valuable lessons from this Gospel and the widow’s example.
Keep Your Eyes on God and Nowhere Else
The widow must have been a pathetic sight in the eyes of a superficial and judging world. Clearly destitute and likely desperate looking, she must not have inspired much admiration to earthly eyes. Many in her state would have been too ashamed or too self-conscious to even approach the place of offering. However, this woman only had eyes for God and nobody else. Inspired by a true love of her Lord, she merely wanted to express that love in some tangible way. Needing every coin she could get her hands on, she nevertheless trusted that God would provide as she sacrificed.
One thinks of Cain murdering Abel (Gen 4:1-8) because Abel gave his best to God while Cain did not and resented God being more pleased with Abel’s total giving. Abel gave God his best because God is all that mattered to him. By contrast, Cain clearly loved himself more than he loved God because he kept his best for himself. Likewise, one is reminded of Abraham preparing to offer his only son Isaac simply because God asked him to do so (Gen 22:1-19). What greater love, obedience, faith, and trust can one have than to be willing to offer one’s only child to please God? My youngest daughter is mystified that God would ask anyone to do such a thing, but I have told her that it was all a test and Abraham passed with flying colors. Abraham’s willingness makes sense if one keeps one’s eyes on God. However, the more we let our gaze stray toward this world, the more absurd Abraham’s actions appear to us. Keep your eyes on God because He is all good, all just, and all loving–and let your faith and love do the rest!
God Will Multiply Our Humility and Subtract Our Arrogance
Let us note God’s majestic irony! Abraham offered his only son and God rewarded his obedience by multiplying his descendants. The boy offered Christ his only food of five loaves and two fish and Our Lord rewarded his unselfishness with food for everyone (Jn 6: 9-14). Now, that boy brought that food either for himself or to sell it to a hungry crowd. Either way, he scrapped his self-interest to serve God and set the stage for a miracle of multiplication.
If God blesses our humble offerings, we may expect Him to reject arrogance and self-interest. In the case of the poor widow’s offering, we note that Christ dismissed the ample offerings of the rich and scribes as so much empty self-affection. Again, no matter how much we give, if our intentions are merely to look good or appear holy, that giving is not genuine and sincere but self-interested and superficial. We should only seek to impress God and, even then, more with our motives and actions than with our mere words.
Over 140 years ago, a little, poor Philadelphia girl named Hattie May Wiatt discovered that her church needed a larger Sunday school building to accommodate the many children who were unable to fit into the smaller structure that existed then. She wanted to do something to help but, sadly, died very soon afterward. Her mother gave the pastor Hattie’s purse containing 57 cents (the equivalent of $15 dollars today) which little Hattie had saved to help. Moved by her unselfish and humble generosity, the pastor informed the congregation. Soon, newspapers spread the news of this little girl’s actions, inspiring many donors. As a result, not only a larger Sunday School, but also a hospital and an expansion of Temple University resulted. From this little, innocent girl’s unselfish love of God’s Word, a multiplication miracle occurred.
God Has Given Each of Us The Right Gifts to Offer
As a New Yorker, I have seen just about everything. One day, a man entered a subway I happened to be taking to work and began singing. He was easily the worst singer I have ever heard. Now he was clearly trying to sing well, but his voice was just terrible. The people began giving him money, so he would go away. Despite his hefty haul that afternoon, I would argue that this man was not offering the right gift to others. I am fairly certain that my singing would make that poor man sound like Frank Sinatra but, thankfully, God has given me a few gifts to offer back to Him and others. I can write, speak, and teach well enough to offer these to Our Lord, and I will continue to try my best to offer these humble offerings. I know that I have a long way to go and that I need to keep trying harder, but I am ready to keep up the effort as best I can.
We all have a responsibility to discern what gifts God has given us. We all then have a responsibility to figure out ways to offer these gifts for the love and service of God and others in that order. Any gifts we use merely for ourselves, much less to harm others or ignore God, are not fulfilling God’s purpose. The right gifts, then, are those gifts clearly given to us by God based on our talents and aptitudes. People who cannot stand the sight of blood are not called upon to be doctors, and folks who hate math are clearly not called to be engineers. However, all of us are called to serve God through the gifts He has given each of us.
Our duty as children of God can best be summarized by one of my favorite saints, St. Therese, “The Little Flower,” who once said that one’s goal must be to present oneself before God with empty hands because one has given away all of God’s blessings to others. This great, humble, yet profound saint also said that when one loves, one does not calculate. Let us each love God and others so much that we do nothing but offer our talents and gifts in service and love leaving all calculations and judgments to God Almighty.
2018 Gabriel Garnica