Behind the Widow's Humble Contribution
The Widow's Mite
32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
What is your story? Whenever someone is asked about this question, the usual answer could be, “Well, I’m a doctor and I help patients get well from their illness” or “I’m a priest and I help people overcome their spiritual struggles and gives them proper spiritual direction,” etc. But though these answers may be right or valid, there’s still more to the question than what meets the eye, right? A doctor who loves his or her job at the hospital may also be a struggling father or mother at home. A priest who may love to give spiritual advise to his parishioners may be struggling with depression or difficulty handling the parish as a whole. And so, what our story entails/implies would go beyond the surface that may not have been touched or realized.
It is for this reason that I love to tell stories even though at times they appear superficial or sheer stories to inject humor whether taken from books or maybe from the internet. But as a priest, I feel the urge to tell those stories not for superficialities’ sake but for people to really SEE what’s behind those stories. Besides, as what Matthew Arnold would say, “Style is the man.” And so, whether one may like it or not, it is something that I would do to get the message across. But, of course, with a goal mind: that people would go beyond simply scratching the story in its surface and reflect where it impacts them.
Today, we hear a story about a certain woman … a widow and maybe childless as there was no mention of her accompanying a child. At the periphery we say, “she’s an ordinary woman and there’s nothing much to say about her.” But putting our shoes into hers especially the time period where she was in, it would mean as follows: as a woman, she was a “nobody” with no significant social status. Added to that, she was a widow and so “poor” and without any source of income as she was entirely dependent upon the livelihood of her husband who had passed away. And so, other than what meets the eye, we could realize that she was helpless, poor, marginalized, neglected, and may even be hopeless … and yet, she placed 2 small coins worth a few cents into the treasury! Was is so much by societal standard? NO! But for Jesus, it was more than enough! (See? Simple story and yet very profound as we dig deeper into it.
Let’s SEE further what’s beyond the surface:
1. Looking at the WIDOW in the narrative we are drawn to be more appreciative to people with similar situation in life. We remember not only the widows but also the widowers. As they try to overcome grief, they often suffer certain losses especially economic loss and from the burden of now being “single” and all that it implies. Let us learn to appreciate the widows and widowers of our parish community. Their loneliness draws them closer to God and to stewardship in the parish. They are often active participants in all the liturgical celebrations as they offer prayers for their families and their community. Most often, we see them active in the parish organizations, as well as in visiting and serving the sick and the homebound. Hence, let us appreciate them, support them, encourage them and pray for them.
In like manner, we appreciate also those who may be “alone” but not necessarily “lonely” – those who live in single-blessedness by choice. Let us acknowledge their sacrifices; their commitment; and most especially their dedication to contribute to the universal call to holiness. Moreover, as we celebrate Vocation Awareness Week, let us remember our priests, the religious, and the consecrated persons who have sworn promises or vows to chastity, poverty and obedience. And though they may be of different condition as that of the widows and widowers, oftentimes, they too are under-appreciated even criticized and persecuted.
2. To SEE Jesus’ criteria of judging people. Human judgments are often gauged upon material possessions. We give too much weight on one’s position in society, to their educational attainments (the titles at the end of one’s name), or to their being a celebrity (that’s why a lot of people, nowadays, would like to go viral on social media because the more viral the exposure, the more instant a “celebrity” you become. But Jesus (as a revolutionary) measures us in a totally different way – on the basis of our inner motives and the intentions hidden behind our actions – more than what meets the eye! He sees us, just like He saw the widow in the Gospel, on how much sacrifice we are willing to make for others and the level of our surrender to His holy will. In other words, on how much we are willing to give out of LOVE. For in Jesus, He wants us to give what we are actually LIVING FOR. We may find this the hardest to give as they cost us more than what our purses could offer but that is what Jesus saw in the widow. The widow who may have NOTHING to give and yet found the courage to share the very little wealth she possessed.
Mother Teresa, who is now St. Teresa of Calcutta once said, "If you give what you don't need, it isn't giving." She used to tell a story of how one day she was walking down the street when a beggar came up to her and said, “Mother Teresa everybody is giving to you, I also want to give to you. Today for the whole day I got only fifteen rupees (thirty cents). I want to give it to you.” Mother Teresa thought for a moment: “If I take the thirty cents, he will have nothing to eat tonight, and if I don’t take it I will hurt his feelings. So I put out my hands and took the money. I have never seen such joy on anybody’s face as I saw on the face of that beggar at the thought that he too could give to Mother Teresa.” Mother Teresa went on: “It was a big sacrifice for that poor man, who had sat in the sun the whole day long and received only thirty cents. Thirty cents is such a small amount and I can get nothing with it, but as he gave it up and I took it, it became like thousands because it was given with so much love. God looks not at the greatness of the work, but at the love with which it is performed.” (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies).
I think, Mother Teresa was SEEING something more from this poor man. She was not simply scratching at the surface. Besides she’s a Saint. Mother Teresa has the gift of discernment.
This Sunday, as we remember the widow in the story, let us remember that she was not just a woman; she was not just this helpless, poor, marginalized, neglected, and hopeless woman. Let us remember, most especially, that she was a woman who may have given the smallest amount of money and yet had given basically her whole life to God.
Again, there is more to everyone’s story than what meets the eye. Let us ask the Lord for the gift of discernment in order that we may truly SEE the most wonderful of all stories hidden beyond the surface!