Homily for November 21st, 2016: Luke 21:1-4.
In a society without today’s social safety net, a widow was destitute. For the widow in today’s gospel to give all that she had to live on for that day was, most people would say, irresponsible. Some would call it scandalous. God looks, however, not at the outward action, but at the heart. For God what counts, therefore, is not the size of the gift, but its motive. The wealthy contributors were motivated at least in part by the desire for human recognition and praise. The widow could expect no recognition. Her gift was too insignificant to be noticed. For God, however, no gift is too small provided it is made in the spirit of total self-giving that comes from faith and is nourished by faith.
Jesus recognizes this generosity in the widow. Even the detail that her gift consists of two coins is significant. She could easily have kept one for herself. Prudence would say that she should have done so. She refuses to act out of prudence. She wants to give totally, trusting in God alone. That is why Jesus says that she has given Amore than all the others.@ They calculated how much they could afford to give. In the widow=s case calculation could lead to only one conclusion: she could not afford to give anything. Her poverty excused her from giving at all. She refuses to calculate. She prefers instead to trust in Him for whom, as the angel Gabriel told a young Jewish teenager named Mary, Anothing is impossible@ (Luke 1:38)
This poor widow shows us better than long descriptions what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. True discipleship will always seem foolish, even mad, to those who live by worldly wisdom. This poor widow had a wisdom higher than the wisdom of this world: the wisdom of faith. With her small gift she takes her place alongside the other great biblical heroes of faith, from Abraham to Mary, who set their minds first on God=s kingdom, confident that their needs would be provided by Him who (as Jesus reminds us) Aknows that you have need of these things@ (Luke 12:30). This widow is also one of that Ahuge crowd which no one can count@ (Rev. 7:9) whom we celebrated on All Saints= Day B those whose faith inspired them to sacrifice all for Jesus Christ, and who in so doing received from him the Ahundredfold reward@ that he promised (Mark 10:30).
Now, in this hour, Jesus is inviting each one of us to join that happy company: to sacrifice all, that we may receive all. He challenges us to begin today!