Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
In countries where there is seeming abundance of food and benefits, where things are seemingly in place, where different kinds of insurances and life plans are set up, and where the pace of life is fast, the stories of the widow of Zarephath who entertained Elijah with what she thought was her last meal, and the widow who put two copper coins in the treasury of the Temple, may just be taken as mere events of the past. However, they showed unconditional trust in God and a generosity beyond compare. They certainly reflected the generosity of God who gave His Son to us and the trust of Jesus who willed to die on the cross for the salvation of all. Jesus did this for people who were and are not even lovable because of their sins.
John Maxwell, in his book Think on These Things, noted that there are two types of people when it comes to the matter of giving: Some give to live, while others live to give.
- Those who give to live expect rewards. When they give, they give “just enough.” They strongly desire recognition. This is what the Levite and the priest manifested on their way to Jericho. They did not extend a helping hand to the man left dead by bandits because no one would see them; there was no audience. While the Samaritan, who was also travelling alone, took care of him, gave his time for him and brought him to an inn. Those who give to live are selfish and lonely people.
- Those who live to give make their decision and action on account of the need of the other person or the cause in need. They respond to the need so that the problem is solved or the need is met. They do not need recognition, as they know that they have received much and fully realize that they should also share much. They do not need an audience. Jesus could not emphasize it more when He said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust” (Mt 5:43-45).
Yet today we see people racing to the top of the economic ladder and social power. They hoard riches, cling to power and display their fame despite the call to aid needy nations and to respond to crises throughout the world.
Being a widow was associated with poverty. The widow of Zarephath gave her last meal to the prophet and she received a prophet’s reward. The widow at the Temple gave all that she had to live on and was immediately recognized by Jesus. Both mighty widows had the attitude of openness to a need and the disposition of generosity to others, as well as the awareness of their need to give. They did not need an audience. They did not care whether what they gave was big or small. They just gave. Their reference for giving was not themselves nor the need to be recognized, but the need of the stranger (Elijah) and the obligation to give to the temple, to God.
We will notice in the Scriptures, that the “other” that is being helped is not just the person/s being served, but God Himself. And the source of this gift of generosity comes from Jesus Himself who accepted the will of the Father to be born and to live among us, and to die on the cross for our redemption.
Some characteristics and significance of selfless giving are the following:
- You alter and improve the situation of the other, the people involved or the cause in need, spiritual, psychological or temporal.
- You give joy to the other person or people involved as you help uplift their intellectual, psychological, spiritual and/or social condition.
- Because it is selfless, you give glory to the greater Other, God, who is the source of all generosity and the reason for relationships that lead to unity and peace among brothers and nations.
Generosity is a virtue and a situation where no one stands alone. Everybody is happy. It is a ground for development and peace where no one is too poor to suffer need and no one has so much to over-indulge in surplus and greed. It is also a foretaste of that glory in the company of God, the source of life.
Let us then exercise this gift of generosity from God by being open to the Holy Spirit who leads us to spend time in prayer so that we can gain more wisdom in responding to God in the needy. Let us keep our minds and hearts open to respond to needs in rather difficult times so that we don’t lose our strength despite all odds. Then the Lord will fill us with love for the Eucharist and the Sacraments, as we realize that His act of self-giving was more than all the acts of giving and sacrifice that we make. With Mary our Mother, who generously gave Her life to bear the Savior of the world, we commit ourselves again to Jesus, so that He can strengthen us as we share our time, treasure and talent for the total human development of peoples. Let our generosity grow in our love for the Eucharist, and let the abundance of the blessings of God overflow in our life and in others.