A Reflection on the Widow’s Mite (Mark 12:41-44)
It was said that there were large trumpet-shaped receptacles outside the Temple in Jerusalem into which people could drop their offerings.
Remember that they only used coins on those days. They did not have checks, envelopes or on-line giving system!
Those making vast offerings of coins could draw attention to themselves by the noise of the clacking of the coins when they were dropped in the receptacles.
In contrast, the offering of the widow, which were two thin copper coins wouldn’t have been noticed by anyone.
Despite her poverty, the widow lived a grateful and blessed life, which was manifested by her act of generosity to God. The widow was in a difficult circumstance. She had lost her husband. She was carrying a heavy burden. Widows had no inheritance rights in ancient Israel.
Women could not work, so widows relied on their children, male relatives, and charity. The widow could choose to be bitter and sad. But she chose to be grateful.
Grateful and thankful people think about the tremendous gifts in life despite their circumstances. They do not think about what they are missing. They are grateful for what they have.
In the silence of her heart, the widow might have said, “Thank you Lord I still have my life and thank you Lord that I am here in the Temple to praise you and offer my gifts to you.” By being grateful, she moved from being bitter to being glad, from being discouraged to being hopeful, from scarcity to sufficiency.
Isn’t it that, like the widow, we have so much in life to be thankful for even though we may not have everything– our health, family, work, opportunities to give thanks to the Lord every day and much more. We live with a sense of sufficiency when we can appreciate what we have, instead of being focused on what we do not have. This is the reason why the widow gave what she had. She felt blessed by the sufficiency in her life.
There is a Jewish prayer called Dayenu, which means “it would have been enough.” Dayenu is recited during the Jewish feast of Passover. Two of the several stanzas says, If God had supplied our needs in the desert for forty years, and had not fed us the manna, it would have been enough. If God had brought us into the Land of Israel, and not built for us the Holy Temple, it would have been enough. Lord your goodness is sufficient.
In contrast, our society lives a life of scarcity. We do not go to Church and celebrate Mass on Sundays because we claim we do not have time. We need extra income. We experience the scarcity of faith and relationship. We stop going together as a family to pray.
The problem in our society is that many of us live in scarcity even in the midst of our abundance. We have what it takes to give and celebrate, but we always feel inadequate and deficient. We want so much more, and life is never sufficient. It is difficult to be grateful.
The practice of sufficiency leads to gratitude and gratitude to fill our hearts with joy. It allows our hearts to be open to the sufficiency of heaven. There is no scarcity in heaven. There is no crying or sadness. There is only joy. There are no worries. There is just an abundance of faith, love, and peace.
When we are grateful, we also experience the sufficiency of heaven. When we are grateful, we do not even have to discuss how much it is that we must give to God. We hear people debating how much will they offer to God. Three, Five or Ten percent? It is obviously lower than restaurant gratuities!
There was a story about a person named John. He promised to give God 10% of his worth when he was struggling to jump-start his business. Over time, John became a multi-millionaire. Then he felt that 10% became too much to offer to God. Think about the whopping 500,000 as 10% of 5 million. He was confused, and he went to his priest and talked about his predicament and asked for prayer. The priest prayed over him saying, “Lord, please bring John back to the time when he was struggling in his business so that he will not be confused about how much he will give you. There is a lot to think about this short anecdote.”
It is possible that 5,000 dollars for some people may just be a drop in the bucket. But this amount is a huge sum of money for others. It requires a tremendous sacrifice for them to have it.
Let us not make the mistake of interpreting the story of the widow’s mite as God requiring us to withdraw all our hard-earned savings and put all of them into the collection basket. Jesus kindly asks us that when we give, give with a sense of gratitude to God for loving us and for giving us first.
It is for each of us to determine how much and in what way we should give. Let us search our hearts out, and we will know what of ours is for the Lord. A pearl of wisdom from the Book of Proverbs says, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops, then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vast mill brim over with new wine (Prov 3:9-10).”
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