A Tale of Two Widows: Lessons in Giving

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By: Eric Gurash

As our 2018 Archbishops “Joyful in Hope” Annual Appeal continues, Deacon Eric Gurash reflects on the 32nd Sunday of Ordinary time and how God’s Word  this week invites us to examine our giving:

We're introduced today to images of two widows presented to us as two, strange and counter-intuitive models of the Christian life.

We first meet the Prophet Elijah as he encounters the widow of Zarephath and her son. In an age where social safety nets are entirely unheard of, a woman who finds herself without a husband or a large extended family to support her is in a very dire situation.

It is here that the prophet Elijah appears and says, "Bring me some water, bring me some bread." You could perhaps almost picture the woman looking around rather shocked as if to say "You can't possibly be speaking to me. Did you miss the fact that we're starving here?"  There is a certain unexpected comedy hidden here; it’s a scene that is intentionally off kilter. Just in case we've missed it she tells the prophet, "Look, these sticks are our last meal. We'll be going home to eat...and then to die." We are at the end of our rope.

However, it's into this very situation that Elijah speaks words that are the antidote to desperation "Do not be afraid..."  and we can find ourselves caught up and breathless by this woman's courageous response. With just a few words from a stranger, she pours out what she believes to be her last sustenance to share. Could you or I ever find the courage to do the same?

A friend of mine once remarked that it's not the first 10% of our giving that is difficult...but the last. That first 10% comes from our excess, our abundance, even our leftovers. The last is where sacrifice becomes redemptive and truly life-giving.

The widow here doesn't give from any place of excess; she has nothing at all in abundance. She gives in a profoundly sacrificial way - and God's response in generosity exceeds all expectation and reason.

Our second widow met in today's gospel isn't faring much better. Walking by the huge, copper, funnel-shaped openings of the Temple treasury, she drops her last two pennies. You can imagine the almost insignificant 'tink, tink' of this widow's last two pennies. Two mind you. In a time again where there is no social welfare, no food bank or salvation army, she doesn't even think of keeping one for herself.

"But out of her poverty, she has put in everything that she had"

What does giving out of our poverty look like?

It may be giving that one little bit of my time when it feels like I have nothing left to give.

It may be looking honestly at the things I do well, even when they are things I don't enjoy doing, and being willing to share just a small bit of that with another.

It may be taking an honest look at my bank balance, perhaps seeing it wanting (as my own does more often than not!), and making the choice to give just the same even if doesn’t seem like what I can do could make any difference.

We find ourselves as a diocese in the middle of our Archbishop’s Annual Appeal. On the surface, it seems to be one more voice among many seeking the little bits that I feel I can spare to give.  However, as with our reading today, we’re challenged to look deeper at what, precisely we are being invited to do.

At a talk not too long ago, Anglican Bishop Rob Hardwick shared the words to a Salvation Army song. I think it helps to shine a light on the invitation that our Bishop is making through this year’s appeal;

There are people hurting in the world out there,

There are children crying and no-one to care,

And they'll go on hurting in the world out there,

And they'll go on crying, that's unless we care!

They need you.. they need me... they need Christ.

There's the prostitute, and there's the prisoner too,

There's the skid row fella who won't look at you,

The compulsive gambler dreaming of his yacht,

And the lad who's stealing just to get his shot,

They need you.. they need me... they need Christ.

There are people living who would rather die,

And their Christian neighbours simply pass them by,

There are people sitting by a silent phone,

People cold and hungry, people left alone,

They need you.. they need me... they need Christ.

There are runaways who want a place to go,

There are alcoholics who don't seem to know,

There are Godless people who have lost their way,

And they need God's love but are afraid to say.

If we close our eyes perhaps they'll go away,

Without you.. without me... without Christ.

You and I cannot be in every time and in every place where the widows, the orphans and most vulnerable of this world are hurting. But the little bits that you or I might be able to give to something like the annual appeal make sure that when a young man whose life has been wracked by alcoholism and abuse is released from prison, someone like Deacon Barry Wood is there to help him re-establish something resembling a normal life on the outside. 

Our little bits ensure that when a young woman finds herself kicked out of a dysfunctional home and on the streets in the middle of the night, someone like our Youth Director Michelle Braden is on the other end of the phone to help find someplace warm. Our little bits are helping to bring healing and the promise of new, positive relationships with our Indigenous brothers and sisters who, all the while wounded deeply by our county’s sins, are still seeking to be family with us once again.

These and a thousand and one different people in different, desperate situations of their own throughout our diocese are invitations to us today to follow the examples of courageous Christian life modeled by our widows today.

Moreover, what do we discover when we bring forward our last 10%, giving not from our excess but from our poverty?

We discover Christ, standing as he does at every single Mass with his hands outstretched as we bring forward a few bits of bread and a small bit of wine.  Insignificant in the face of our own need.

They are all that we have, but Christ urges us to entrust them to his care. Before our eyes they are transformed, transfigured, transubstantiated becoming his own flesh - body, blood, soul, and divinity capable of saving one soul, two souls, a church filled with souls, a world of souls through all space and time.

We are currently accepting donations for our 2018 “Joyful in Hope” Archbishop’s Annual Appeal. We invite you to help us reach our goal of $1.6 million. Use the following link to donate now: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/3509

 

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