Dear Brothers and Sisters,
When Jesus drew the attention of his disciples to the widow who had just made her contribution to the “plate collection” of her time, he did so with a purpose. He wanted them to understand her action as a challenge and apply what they had witnessed to their own life and ministry.
When he said: “I tell you she has given more than any of the others” was he perhaps teaching them something even more profound?
Because she had given everything she had to live on, she differed significantly from those who gave from what they had to spare! The implication is that the others calculated what they could afford to give. She by contrast gave no thought at all to herself, her needs or her future. All she thought of were those who would benefit from her total gift.
We can learn even more from the fact that the widow’s action took place at the Temple Treasury. This was the place near the Court for Women – the most public place in the Temple. This was where the collection baskets were placed. It was the place where all kinds of women would congregate, including some who were extremely poor and neglected. But does that explain her recklessness in giving all she had!
Why did she act so recklessly? Was it simply because of the poverty she witnessed there? Or could it have been that as a poor person herself, she appreciated what it meant to have nothing to live on. So whenever she had something she would share it. Today we might say she had developed the “culture of giving” in response to the need to give”.
It is likely that Jesus drew His disciples’ attention to her action to prepare them for His great act of giving His own life without reservation, without calculation. His total self giving also flowed from His “need to give”.
For most of us Lent is a time for making special efforts to pray, fast and give alms. But when I scrutinise my own Lenten practice, I find that it is not free from calculations and reservations: “I’ll refrain from eating sweets/chocolates; I’ll give up alcoholic drink”. Or if I am in a more positive frame of mind: “I’ll do an extra hour’s prayer; I’ll do an extra good deed, I’ll be more generous, more compassionate!”
But that’s not what Jesus is challenging us to do! He says: “She gave everything she had to live on! Surely she gave because she felt the need to give.
We are challenged this Lent to develop or nurture a similar culture of giving my time, my talent, my treasure without calculation or reservation!
“They gave from what they had to spare! She gave everything she had to live on!”
Am I included among them, or is my Lenten programme of praying, fasting or almsgiving going to be an expression of the Christ-like culture of giving which expresses itself in the strongly felt “need to give”.
God will surely bless you with the grace and peace which come from giving rather than receiving.
+ Wilfrid Cardinal Napier OFM
Archbishop of Durban