Ah… The Widow’s Two Coins. Last week’s Gospel reading is the story that epitomizes what I call, “the giving guilt trip”! Maybe it’s just me and how I’ve heard this story in the past, but I have always been a bit skeptical of this widow being able to part with her only money. As a single mom in my early twenties, I would complain to God that He couldn’t possibly mean I should give all my money to the church! My literal understanding of this story caused me to dismiss its potential application to me and my life. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that the Bible has various levels of interpretation: literal, moral, allegorical, and anagogical. The fancy word for this is hermeneutics – but that’s for another article.
With this in mind, perhaps this observation from Jesus isn’t solely about cash donations. The widow, giving from her poverty, reveals her level of trust in God. She knows it is her duty to contribute to the treasury and trusts that – through obedience – God will supply her necessities. Does this mean it’s going to rain manna from heaven at her house? Probably not. So where will her necessities come from?
Let’s look back at the first reading from I Kings. Elijah asks a widow for some bread. Now for her, at that moment, all she had was enough to make a last meal for her and her son. She tells Elijah this and he still asks for all she has and promises that she will have enough until it rains again. Maybe the widow in the Gospel knew this story from the Scriptures and was hoping for the same kind of miracle – just not as flashy. However, she may have received support from her community, her neighbors, or other family members.
We can live out this Gospel passage by supporting our own family of families here at Corpus Christi or our wider community, and even across the country or around the world. When we give to St. Vincent de Paul, Aid to Women Center, Family Promise, or other organizations, like Catholic Charities or the Human Services Campus, or even volunteer at a soup kitchen or Feed My Starving Children, then we are directly supporting the hungry, the homeless, the helpless, and hurting. These corporal works of mercy are active and tangible ways to fulfill our roles as Christians.
On the flip side of the same coin, when we give to the parish through Sunday envelopes, Building Fund envelopes, or online giving, we are directly supporting the buildings and campus as well as the mission of the parish. Our staff and volunteers provide catechesis for our children, adult formation for those desiring to join the Catholic faith, Bible studies to continue growing in our faith, and events to promote fellowship and opportunities to bring others who are not fully involved in the life of the Church.
When we consider Jesus’ words about the rich putting in large sums, He is not saying that’s a bad thing! “They have all contributed from their surplus wealth...” (Mark 12:44). I think He makes two points here. First, if people are watching the rich giving large sums, maybe they are giving to be seen, to feel important, to feel better than others. Giving out of pride is not true generosity. Second, they are giving from their surplus: their wealth, leftovers, pocket change. But what does God call us to give? Beginning with Cain and Abel, God has always called for us to give of our first fruits – the best, right off the top – not leftovers.
To apply this to our lives today, we must first consider these things:
When we give our two coins – whether it’s $20 a week or $20,000 a week – we can do greater things together than we are able to do alone. Interestingly, sacrificial giving applies to more than just monetary donations. When we commit to a daily life of prayer, we often need to give up something in order to do that. Getting out of bed earlier in the morning to read Scripture, attend Mass, or keep a holy hour could be considered giving our first fruits – our first hours of the day – to God. Volunteering in a ministry might mean we eat dinner later than normal, miss our favorite TV show, or go shopping another day. The best part about these sacrifices is, when given to God in gratitude and love, for the benefit of others, we are blessed, too. Matthew’s Gospel reminds us, whether we are rich or not:
[But] take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
- Mt 6:1-4
Let’s circle all the way back to my first question about the widow – if manna is probably not going to fall from heaven onto her front yard, from where is she trusting God to provide her necessities? More to the point, from whom? You. Me. Us. We are called to share our blessings – to give away what God has given us – to those who need it! God works through us. The Responsorial Psalm from last Sunday tells us what the Lord does: “…keeps faith forever, secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry, sets the captives free… gives sight to the blind, …raises up those who were bowed down, …loves the just, …protects strangers, sustains the fatherless and the widow, thwarts the wicked…” (Ps 146:7-10) He does all these things through His people! When we desire to know and follow the will of God, we will be given abundant grace for praying, serving, and giving!BACK TO LIST