How many times have we all opened the fridge or indeed the cupboard and saw very little there and said to ourselves how I can I make something out of very little? As many of you know I was a chef before embarking on priesthood and the sign of a good and talented chef or indeed a good householder is that some people can create a beautiful and fantastic meal out of virtually nothing. They have two to three ingredients and create a feast fit for a king that seems to go onto feed a multitude.
Our readings this weekend features two widows. In our first reading from the book of Kings the widow was approached by the prophet Elijah who asked her for some scraps of food, he wasn’t looking for a lot of food just a tiny bit a scrap and something to drink. The widow’s response was that she had no bread, just a few basic items that required her to make something to eat for her son and herself. Elijah asks her to do as she was doing, not be afraid and to share some food with him. As a result through her trust, her giving and generosity, the widow received with plenty.
It is a similar story too in our gospel from Mark when we hear about another widow. Jesus we are told in this story is an observer. He notices what the rich are putting into the treasury such as large sums of money while those who had less naturally put in smaller amounts. It is very much a case of the rich versus the poor. The widows portrayed in today’s readings are representatives of the poor and marginalised in society. These people are of no importance. Indistinguishable from other people and what they contributed deemed insignificant. As the saying goes money talks. If you are rich with plenty of money you often are treated more importantly and gain more respect unlike those who don’t have no money, the poor which go unnoticed and rejected by society.
But the widow in today’s gospel didn’t go unnoticed by Jesus. Even though she had no money, he took the side of the poor and marginalised. Jesus focuses on the poor and marginalised rather than on the rich and the famous because the rich are not necessarily the ones who will give generously or who have the most to give. Jesus upholds the widow’s contribution. Her small offering was about much more than the monetary value. Her small offering was an act of profound generosity, giving from her livelihood rather than from surplus wealth. She gave all that she had, didn’t hold anything back even if it meant that she had nothing to live on to look after herself.
This poor widow is shown to have great faith and trust in God as did the widow in the first reading.
Our faith requires of us to give our entire selves without holding back. God sees our humble offering and it is the total offering of our lives and ourselves to God. If we give all that we have, God can work marvels with what we have to offer him if we give from the heart with love and devotion towards him. A gift that is given out of love and generosity is invaluable and entails sacrifice.
Christmas as we know is heading our way rather quickly. The shops and the big companies are already beginning to advertise us and plague us with what we should buy and what we supposedly need this Christmas and usually these items don’t come very cheap or reasonable. Families and often those less well off in our parishes and communities feel under strain and under pressure to keep up with current trends to spend money on lavish and expensive gifts so as not to feel out done by or indeed embarrassed and ashamed because they couldn’t afford such and such an item. But we must keep the thought in the back of our mind that it is the thought that counts. That is what our gospel is relating to us this weekend that material wealth and riches doesn’t matter. The gift may not come in a box all beautifully wrapped, something that will be out of date in six months’ time. The greatest gift we can give anybody, our family, our friends is the gift of ourselves, generosity of our time out of love. We may be rich in material goods but we may the lack richness of our faith. We become poor for Christ’s sake so that we give of ourselves in generosity of spirit.
Learning to give generously to God and to others is a difficult lesson to master. We cannot be a true follower of Christ without self-denial. As Jesus reminds us anyone who wants to be follower of mine must take up his cross. Jesus gave of himself on the cross, his generous self-giving of himself was so that we receive salvation and eternal life.
We are all called to receive and to give, it is to care for other things of God too like creation, justice, peace and reconciliation. It is to give time to worship God in common and in private – to ensure a space and time for prayer each day so that we may develop a trust in God and in his plan for our lives and that we may also hear the words of the prophet Elijah ‘Do not be afraid’ and the words of our psalmist that it is the Lord who upholds and keeps faith forever.
The widow of the gospel had a generous heart, as did the widow in the first reading. They looked outward to the needs of the other and the things of God and gave what they could in this direction. Can we not do the same?
In the words of St. Teresa of Calcutta; God looks not at the size of the gift but at the love at which it is given.