I have always found today’s Gospel a challenge. Jesus admires the widow who gives her entire livelihood to the Temple treasury. He contrasts her gift to God of herself, all she has, to the carefully calculated gifts of the wealthy, who give from their surplus. I can see why Our Lord admires the widow’s gift, but I also instinctively question her total gift—how can she carry on after giving away the little she has?
I’ve realized that Jesus admires the widow for her faith, the total trust that God will provide. I don’t think the Lord expects us to sell all we have and give to the poor. But he does expect us to be willing to give up everything we have because, after all, everything we have comes from him. Life itself is God’s gift. The widow’s action acknowledges her total dependence on God, just as the action of Daniel and his companions, in their strict adherence to the dietary laws of God’s chosen people, declares their total gift of self.
When I give only out of my surplus, whether a surplus of time, talent, or treasure, I am making myself, rather than God, the center of my life. The actions of the widow in the Temple and of the young Jewish exiles in Babylon should inspire us not only to admiration but to imitation.
Last Thursday, we thanked God for all his gifts to us and our loved ones. How about making the season of Advent a time of love of God and others by giving ourselves, our time, talent, and treasure, not just our surplus, to others?
Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever. And blessed is your holy and glorious name, praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages. Glory and praise forever! (Responsorial Psalm, from the Book of Daniel)