32nd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR B
What does the story of the two widows in today’s First Reading and Gospel accounts have to do with us? Let me answer that question with this modern day true story I once heard from a preacher about a woman living in our day.
There was a single young woman with two boys. Her husband, their father, had died of cancer in his early thirties. Somehow she found the strength to go on. Then, several years later, she met a handsome, strapping young Viet Nam veteran who had come into her life and the lives of her boys.
They were engaged to be married. A few weeks prior to the wedding ceremony he was over at the home of this woman and her boys, up in a tree in their front yard, trimming its branches. The branch he was sitting on broke off. He fell to the ground and broke his neck. He was instantly paralyzed from the neck down, doomed to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair and on a ventilator. The accident happened just three weeks before they were to be married. This young woman, with two boys whose father had recently died of cancer, went ahead and married the man she now loved but who was a quadriplegic, forever to be in a wheel chair and on a ventilator.
This woman whose story I have just now shared with you make the women in today's First Reading and Gospel account very real for me.
The question you and I face is this: "What are our reasons for giving?" Or “Do we give God what we’re actually living for? We believe in the immensity of gifts that God has given to us. Gifts which we consider fruits of His love for all of us. Take our daily efforts, for instance. Are they to accomplish our purposes or God’s purposes? For all we know, they can be the same. We can make our purposes God’s purposes and we can make God’s purposes our purposes. Caring for the ones you love, caring for your wife, your husband, and your children is giving your life to God. Providing for the happiness of others is giving your life to God. Working for peace, working for justice and fairness in our world, and many other efforts is, in fact, giving your life over into God’s care. In so doing, our work becomes collaborative with the very work of God. Then we do not only work in isolation with the works of a providential God, but we rather work WITH HIM.
Now, the main theme of today’s readings speak about generosity. But, what is generosity? When you give money as donation does that mean you are generous? Maybe, but generosity calls to mind more than just giving. Let me illustrate this with another true story:
Archbishop Tagle once narrated a story about his aunt who is also a widow. She died of cancer in 1983. The day before she died, he visited her and as he was about to leave, she said to him, “Hey, I have not given you and the seminary anything this past years.” The Archbishop said, “Don’t worry, you are sick. You need money for your medication.” But she said, “No, I need to give.” So she gave the archbishop 20 pesos (less than a dollar). At the back of the Archbishop’s mind 20 pesos could not even feed one seminarian. But coming from someone who has spent so much for her sickness, 20 pesos was a matter of life and death. For the Archbishop that’s generosity. The Church survives through the generosity of poor people. It’s not the amount but the largeness of heart that makes the Church truly the BODY of CHRIST!
In other words, generosity highlights the motivation of the giver. It is not the quantity of the amount given but rather, the magnanimity of the heart who gives! To repeat what I’ve asked earlier, do we give what we’re living for? If our motivation to give lies on what we’re living for, then we are on the right direction. Our generosity will bear much fruit!
Let’s be clear about it. God isn't interested in your money. He has all of the riches He will ever need. No, God wants more than your money. God wants YOU. He wants your daily life. He wants to be what you depend on each day. He wants to be what you live on.
The women in our readings today give us clear picture of true generosity. The widow in the first reading offered food to the prophet Elijah even if that would cost their life in famine. The widow in the Gospel put in two copper coins even though by status she doesn’t have much as there is no husband to support her financially.
Going back to my first story, you may ask what happened to the married couple? Well, they joined their parish’s Youth Ministry team and devoted themselves to caring for the parish’s youngsters and teens. Their influence and gift to those kids in the parish obviously made an incredible impression on all who knew them.
Be generous with God. He will not be outdone in His generosity toward you. Always remember, when we are after God’s business He will be after ours as well.