First reading: 1 Kgs. 17:10–16
In those days, Elijah the prophet went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the entrance of the city, a widow was gathering sticks there; he called out to her, “Please bring me a small cupful of water to drink.” She left to get it, and he called out after her, “Please bring along a bit of bread.” She answered, “As the LORD, your God, lives, I have nothing baked; there is only a handful of flour in my jar and a little oil in my jug. Just now I was collecting a couple of sticks, to go in and prepare something for myself and my son; when we have eaten it, we shall die.” Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid. Go and do as you propose. But first make me a little cake and bring it to me. Then you can prepare something for yourself and your son. For the LORD, the God of Israel, says, ‘The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the LORD sends rain upon the earth.’” She left and did as Elijah had said. She was able to eat for a year, and he and her son as well; the jar of flour did not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, as the LORD had foretold through Elijah.
Second reading: Heb. 9:24–28
Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself, that he might now appear before God on our behalf. Not that he might offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters each year into the sanctuary with blood that is not his own; if that were so, he would have had to suffer repeatedly from the foundation of the world. But now once for all he has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by his sacrifice. Just as it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment, so also Christ, offered once to take away the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.
Gospel: Mk. 12:38–44
In the course of his teaching Jesus said to the crowds, “Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.”
He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”
In other words Fr. Sonny de Rivera, SVD (Rome, Italy)
I remember many years ago when a landslide struck an area in the parish where I was working. Several people died, houses were destroyed, and the poor people in the city needed a lot of help. We started to collect basic necessities like non-perishable food and clothes, among others. That day there was a truckload of goods coming from a company. At the very same time, a little kid with his mom went to the parish with a bag of his favorite toys for the affected children. I remember that because of the tremendous excitement of the truckload of goods that came, no one noticed the child’s charitable act.
The Gospel reading for today focuses on a widow who had given everything she had, and she was also unnoticed and unrecognized. The story of the widow’s mite shows us that God is capable of seeing things that no one sees or appreciates. Jesus saw and recognized what no one else did, the small gift of a poor widow.
It is not the size of our gift; it is the size of our faith. It’s not how much we give. By commending the poor widow’s generosity, Jesus shows us that God looks at the circumstances of our giving—how much we keep for ourselves instead of how much we offer. The poor widow had nothing left. Jesus wanted to emphasize that the poor widow’s gift was of great value because she gave even though she was in need herself. Remember the adage, “give until it hurts.”
One thing that arises in this story of the widow’s mite is the strength and triumph of faith over rationality, logic, or reason. The action of the widow, to give everything she had, was the wrong thing to do from a human perspective. If I knew her personally, I would have told her, “Never mind, because God understands your situation.” I imagine that it would have been better if she had kept one mite and gave the other. Her act could only have come from her faith in God to supply her needs.
We have our difficulties. We set sail on stormy seas, but our faith keeps us going. The message is: We are never too poor to give nor too impoverished to help someone else. But, the challenge is: Do we look at our circumstances and think we should give more or give less? When economic pressures threaten, do we hold tight to our purses and wallets instead of opening them freely?
I wish I could have told all my reflections here in that situation when the little boy and his mother came to share this boy’s treasured toys. The lessons learned from this widow’s mite would have reminded all of us to value the fact that what matters most is not the size of your gift, but what you give.