By JENNIFER BURGIN
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.”
Recently, I received a form letter from our pastor asking parishioners to increase their tithes during the summer months. We need a huge sum of money in order to fix the sanctuary's aging roof. It's sad to see leaking walls as the choir sings.
After reading the mail out, I thought: Why not direct this letter to the wealthy parishioners only? If they can afford luxury cars, European vacations, and Catholic school tuition they can pay for a new roof. Better yet, why doesn't a general contractor who attends our parish donate materials and labor free of charge? Great tax write-off!
My viewpoint changed after reading today's gospel. It's not only the wealthy responsible for contributing to the upkeep of a beautiful church, but all parishioners. Christians are called to stewardship through time, talent, or treasure. We all use a church's facilities. As a result, we share the burden of keeping the lights on, the sacristy stocked, and candles on the altar. We should give from our heart, either through our wallets or through volunteering. Yes, some people can contribute more money than others. However, we should remember that the rich are no better than the poor. Because a family can donate a million dollars doesn't guarantee entrance into Heaven! It may mean a picture with the bishop in the diocese newspaper, but it also means a ton of annoying phone calls as random "charities" solicit even more donations.
In today's familiar gospel reading, a poor widow places only two small coins in the treasury. Was the poor widow embarrassed or satisfied by her small contribution? Did she do it out of obedience to the Jewish law? Absolutely! Jesus observed the crowds as a teaching moment for his disciples. As the rich dropped in tons of gold coins, most likely conversing among themselves about their great wealth and prestige, this poor humble woman sacrificed much, much more. She did exactly what Jesus has always wanted his followers to do. Give despite the cost; give with a sense of purpose and service; give for the benefit of God and mankind.
The scriptures fail to tell us much about this poor widow. Did she have children? Did she have anyone to care for her? She contributed to the treasury from her whole livelihood. She may have had to go hungry for a week or glean for food like in the story of Ruth. We don't know the poor widow's situation. However, we do know that her few cents were worth more spiritually than any surplus from the rich.
I admit I'm not the best at tithing. I always make excuses that I can't afford it. When I think about how much money I spend downloading reality shows through Amazon or buying pricey coffees at Starbucks, my conscience says: Jennifer, maybe you should spend less on entertainment and give more to the church. It's for a wonderful and selfless cause! If the widow can donate two cents, I can donate a few extra pennies, nickels and dimes in honor of God and His holy sacrifice! It's easy to think, "Let the wealthy take care of the major financial burdens!" However, if every person can give just a little, thespiritual benefit grows exponentially.
Hopefully, by the end of this year we can fix our parish's leaking roof and have funds leftover for other facility enhancements.
“Never measure your generosity by what you give, but rather by what you have left.”
-Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen
This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin, a Lay Dominican. Please visit her blog: Jennifer's Spectrum of Spirituality