How much am I to give? One may ask when hearing today’s Sunday Gospel. Jesus was in the temple observing people putting money into the treasury. Afterwards he lauds one person who seemed to have surpassed them all. The Lord sees the heart and that is the difference!
This is a meditation on this Gospel from one of my sisters:
“. . . all she had . . .”
In the Gospel readings these past few Sundays, scribes have not fared well. Today Jesus castigates those who, in avarice and lust for prestige, twist the Law to line their own pockets, even at the expense of society’s most vulnerable members—widows. In a different twist, one of those widows unwittingly bests both that crowd and the rich, whose offerings clatter in the treasury boxes that line the Temple walls. As if to sketch the face of true worship, Jesus observes that she “contributed all she had,” not to extol giving that harms the giver, but to laud the offering of the heart.
Chances are, we’ve all been muscled into a donation of some kind. We may have wished that a lighter heart could have accompanied the lighter wallet. Our reluctance may stem less from selfishness than from caution. We want to give to a “worthy cause.” We might even want to control how our contribution—money, time, energy, talent—is appropriated. That may be prudent; after all, in trying to do good with our limited resources we don’t want to feel we’re spinning our wheels. But such clinging can tarnish the Godlike sheen that comes from a spontaneous, lavish outpouring of love. Whether we give or receive, if we look only at the numbers, we miss the Gospel point.
Do I resist giving of myself, including my prayer, because no one can guarantee its “success”? Do I compare myself with others and demur, with the excuse that my small contribution won’t make a dent anyway? Our widow doesn’t seem to care either way. What does it matter if others give more? She is free. It only matters that God esteems her gift of the heart. The Gospel story’s paschal/liturgical dimension backlights another sacrificial love: the Crucified/Risen One himself and the Eucharist—one life, one loaf, one cup, emptied for the life of the many.
If you have enjoyed this meditation, you’ll find meditations on all the Gospels in the Ordinary Grace series Ordinary Grace Weeks 18-34