Mission Society of the Philippines



Mk 12: 38-44


ONCE A CERTAIN PARISH had received some boxes of relief goods which came from generous people abroad. The parish priest then called some of his parishioners, being the recipients of the received goods. When the parish workers started opening the boxes, the first to appear were canned goods. People were overjoyed upon seeing these. However, the joy became short-lived upon learning that some goods were already ‘expired.’ Thus, the parishioners now put their hopes on the non-edible stuff. Indeed, when the other boxes were opened, the people were happy to see clothing and shoes. But when the shoes were given out, the children noticed that some have no “proper pairs” and yet, they still happily wore them.

In our gospel, Jesus gives us an idea of what true giving is. It is a reflection on Christian giving or generosity. Jesus compares, in his time, the quality of sharing between the rich and the poor. Jesus is aware of the rich who “put in large sums.” But he is more curious of the poor widow who “put in two small coins worth a few cents.” He then concluded that the poor widow has put in more than any other. It is because the rich contributed from their surplus wealth, but the widow contributed “all she had, her whole livelihood.”

Firstly, Christian giving involves pain. There is pain in giving, so to say. On the part of the widow, it was painful for her to share the two small coins because she needed them very much. As the gospel says, the coins represent her whole livelihood. But still she let go of it. Christian generosity is all about that. When we give, we give something that we also need. But then we decide to let go of it, it is because we realize that others are more in need of it. Consequently, we feel the pain. On the contrary, when we give from our excess, we never feel any pain at all. Or if we share things which we no longer use, we don’t feel any pain. On the contrary, we feel relieved because we can now get rid of these things. I am not saying that giving from our surplus or excess is bad, or giving the things that we no longer use is bad. Jesus simply challenges us to go beyond that tendency. Jesus challenges us to practice a true Christian generosity which is accompanied by pain.

Secondly, there is also joy in giving. To let go of something which we still need can be painful, but it gives also a concomitant joy. For instance, when we contribute something to people who are victims of natural disasters, like typhoons and earthquakes, we can experience joy, satisfaction and fulfillment. Often this joy cannot be fully described and explained. Some people do give because they believe that giving is meritorious. As the Book of Proverbs say, “Charity brings its own reward.” Some Christians do give because they believe that this goodness can be paid off in the next life. Or some people simply believe in the saying, “the more you give, the more you receive.” But the joy is more caused by the fact that through giving, we become part of the lives of the people who are recipients of our generosity. It shows that indeed we are a brother and a sister to each other.

A generous person is never selfish. A generous person goes out from the “world of the self” an enters in to the “world of others.” The poor widow in the gospel reminds us that when we give, we give from the heart. It is amazing that such a poor person can also be generous. But this is the truth. Generosity is not the exclusive prerogative of the rich. The poor have also the capacity to give. The poor have also gifts to share with others. And when they give and share, we must appreciate it. AMEN.

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