Last week Jesus revealed to us the heart of the law and the Gospel: Love. This love, a self-sacrificing love, agape love, is embodied in the first reading and the Gospel this Sunday. Jesus was the epitome of self-sacrificing love when he gave himself, willingly and lovingly, over to the Father to be sacrificed for the salvation of mankind.
We will not be judged on how much we give, but on whether we give willingly, lovingly and generously from your own need, not our left overs which we do not need.
In the first reading this is perfectly enacted when a widow, who is not even a Jew, has resigned herself and her son to certain death because they have but a bit of flour and a bit of oil and no hope of anything more coming. Elijah assures her that if she makes first for him a little cake and then makes something for her son and herself that her flour and oil would not run out, not until God brought rain upon the region. The three of them ate for a year and the flour and oil never ran out. She was not a Jew, but she trusted this man of God and she generously gave from what pittance she had to him first.
The Gospel story is very similar in that a very poor, old widow in the procession to the Temple gives the last coins she has in her possession into the collection. Other people are also giving into the collection for the Temple, and they are giving a great deal of money. Jesus points out that the very rich people are indeed giving a great deal of money, but what they are giving is from their excess wealth, not what they actually need to live. It does not create a sacrifice for them to give, as it does the poor widow who needs the few pennies she has to eat and survive. In the end we will be judged by whether our gifts reflect our livelihood, our whole beings, all our heart and soul, mind and strength.
Are we giving all that we can to the Lord, not out of a sense of forced obligation, but in a spirit of love and generosity? Is our giving of our free will, out of compassion of our hearts, love of our brethren, or do we feel forced into behaving as we would rather not? Once you begin giving with willingness, love and generosity it becomes addictive in that it is far more rewarding to sacrifice for another, just as Jesus has done for us, than to stand by and do nothing while others are suffering.
This is a great time of year to to reflect upon these readings, as we approach a season of plenty from Thanksgiving to Christmas. What would you do this year that diminishes your own plenty and improves the lives of others in greater need? Work in a food pantry? Donate your Thanksgiving dinner to that cause? Rather than spend lavishly on Christmas gifts amongst the family, would you instead scale back your own celebration and instead choose a gift tag from the giving tree, one for each member of the family, and provide some measure of comfort for others instead? Will you bring in a canned food item each week to help stock the shelves of the food pantry in our community? Do you have any coats, gloves, hats, sweaters or scarves that you can donate so that those in need have a measure of warmth and comfort better than freezing?
There are so many ways to help others, even giving of your time and talent is a way to help. Try to come up with ideas, perhaps to help someone who cannot transport themselves to and from the store, or church, or doctor appointments. These are ideas which are good, come up with some more if nothing here speaks to you! We can get habituated to this way of giving before Advent begins!
Our Psalm this week is Psalm 146: Praise The Lord My Soul
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Have a blessed week!