32nd sunday in ordinary time
7th November 2021
Year B – Psalter Week 4
If we were to try and imagine ourselves being present at the scene of this weeks gospel, what would it have been like? Well it was already evening, and we would have reached the end of a long journey with Jesus. Over the last few days, he had had some tough confrontations with the religious authorities and Jesus himself would have known that he was soon to be arrested and condemned to death. But for now we are all seated in the temple, and Jesus is watching people putting their offerings into the treasury. As he watches, Jesus sees the real contrast between the false piety of the scribes and their large offerings and the true and quiet devotion of the widow who gave up everything she currently owned.
It would be easy to assume that this was a one-off act by the window. It at first seems that we are observing her ‘final offering’ of the last few pennies that she possessed, but Jesus sees and knows differently. In those times in Jerusalem life for a widow was very tough, they had no right to the heritage of their deceased husbands and their lot depended greatly on public charity. When she returned home, from making her simple temple offering, there would have been very little, or even nothing, for the next day. What she did have in abundance, and what Jesus clearly saw, was great faith, confidence, and trust in God to love her and help her survive.
So, rather than this being her ‘final offering’ it is probable that this was one of many special gifts of ‘trust in the lord’, born out a way of life that she had lived over many years. She would have become well practiced in a life lived by placing ‘complete trust’ in God at all times. She had learnt to live a life not based on a ‘few great deeds’ like the scribes, but on lots of little and simple ones.
And of all the people who gave that day, she was the one that Jesus noticed, and he recognised her gift as an act of love and trust. Hers was the gift that day that actually meant something.
So, our Gospel today, although it may ‘not seem it’ at first, is as much about ‘trust in God’ and his influence on our lives, especially when times are tough, as it is about giving and generosity. The widow’s generosity was in fact not just a selfless act but also a result of her trust in God.
Giving and generosity, in all its forms, are of course important but it is when we give of ourselves that we truly give. For while we may look on the monetary value of an offering, God looks at the heart, at the intention and the real-life significance of the offering.
Today, we live in a world in which big results and great success seem to many to be all that matter. Fortunately, Jesus’s recognition of what is important and what really matters, is very different, as we can see from the story of the poor widow.
What the scribes did was very grand and ostentatious and primarily done so that other people could see what they were doing. But for the widow, in monetary terms, it was her very small offering that became the most valuable of them all, because she offered it up with a sincere heart. Jesus commending her, because her small offering was an act of profound generosity, giving from her livelihood rather than her surplus. She let go of every shred of security and committed herself and her future totally to God’s faithfulness.
As we saw, Jesus takes special notice of small deeds that are done with sincerity, in love and affection. He looks on each of us as individuals, he knows our circumstances and our lives and therefore our needs and what we are able to give.
Giving doesn’t have to mean money and we can certainly give to others, and to God, without losing any of what we had to start with, yet in reality becoming better off for it. We can share knowledge, skills, our time, a listening ear, love and so on with others, without losing any of those things, for we are simply sharing the gifts that God has firstly given each one of us, and he will continue to do so.
We can think of ourselves like candles, for a single candle can be used to light many, many other candles and all will shine just as brightly as each other.
Now, more than ever, is a great time to think about how we can be generous to others. In truth, there are many people locally who are suffering from very real need through poverty, loneliness, poor health, and life’s many challenges. So, as a parish this year we are taking part in the Love Christmas campaign, along with many other churches and organisations connecting people of all faiths and none. This is designed to provide some Christmas joy to local families and people young and old, for whom Christmas will be a particularly difficult time for many different reasons. We would like to get together as many parishioners as possible to help organise, pack and deliver boxes of simple Christmas gifts designed to put a smile on the faces of those in most need. The more people who can help the more successful and enjoyable it will be.
If you would like more information, please contact me and I will be in touch.
So, let us ask God to strengthen and bless us with the widow’s same unshakable trust in his love for us, and to help us to share with others the gifts that he has indeed given each of us.
1 Kings 17:10-16
Jar of meal shall not be spent, jug of oil shall not be emptied.
My soul, give praise to the Lord.
Christ, our high priest, has done away with sin by sacrificing himself.
This poor widow has put in more than all.
Even if you have to die, says the Lord,
keep faithful, and I will give you
the crown of life.