Saturday, November 7, 2009

My two cents on the poor widow

(x-posted in CatholicFriends)
32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
(Mark 12:38-44)
November 8, 2009

As the story goes, a man being mugged by two thugs put up a tremendous fight. Finally, the thugs subdued him and took his wallet. Upon finding only two dollars in the wallet, the surprised thug said “Why did you put up such a fight?” To which the man promptly replied “I was afraid that you would find the $200 hidden in my shoe!”
The gospel account of the widow who offered two coins in spite of her poverty is well-known.
We still remember this nameless widow more than 2,000 years after she put her last two cents into the treasury.

"...Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents..."

Some say that this biblical account gives credence solely to the adage: Give until it hurts.

Does it? While it is certainly virtuous to sacrifice ones own interest in order to offer something for others, in this instance the account also points out the higher order in things. This is revealed by the contrast demonstrated between rich people giving large sums and the poor widow giving two small coins. It simply shows that generosity and devotion to God is not measured by the amount given but rather in what lies at the heart of the giver. Jesus confirms this when He said: "Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.".

The rich might even have felt nonchalance and some reluctance in parting with their money, while the poor widow sincerely gives everything with all joy in her heart, in spite of her spare means. This is what St. Paul refers to when he said: "Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Cor 9:7)

God knows how much we can afford to give, as he knows all the money that we have (even those hidden in our shoe). It is the full devotion to God that the gospel speaks of, and it may not really matter whether one is rich or poor materially. The important thing is that one's heart must be for God -- selflessly, entirely, physically, and spiritually. Jonathan Swift put it nicely: “A wise man should have money in his head, but not in his heart.”

The poor widow had God in her heart, and for that alone, she is infinitely rich.

No comments: