Lessons in Giving: Two Roman Catholic Women Priests Reflect On Widows Mites
Today we learn about two widows who gave all they had , gave out of their poverty. The widow of Zarephath ( I Kings 17: 10-16) gave the prophet Elijah her last bit of food, and Jesus noted that the widow in the temple gave all she had while the well placed religious leaders made profit on the backs of such widows and prayed aloud a lot to cover their tracks (Mark 12:38-44). We learn about a God who secures justice for the oppressed and gives food to the hungry, loves the just and protects strangers and widows and children( Psalm 146:7-10) and about Christ who gave all he had (Hebrews 9:24-28). This gives us pause to stop and look at our own giving and our own attitudes toward giving. Rev. Dr.Beverly Bingle RCWP, Ohio and Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP, Florida share their homilies.
The first widow and her child are starving but give their last bit of food to Elijah when he asks. He promises her an unending supply of flour and oil and she seems to trust his word. But she also may see that he is hungry too and feeds him. How moving is this? And the widow who Jesus sees giving to the Treasury in the Temple also gives all she has. Wow! And yet I have been so moved many times in our lives and ministry with the poor. There may be some stingy and self-centered poor folks out there, but more often than not we witness the poor giving again and again. When a poor neighborhood or community is truly a community no one need go hungry. A big pot of stew can feed neighbors and even strangers as well as family. Phones and resources, including, funds, cars, clothes are lent as needed. I think of Ruby who is now very ill. She always shared her food with others, especially the homeless as she had been homeless. She would tell the story of “stone soup”.This is a well known tale of poor folks,initially hobos, beginning a pot of soup with only water and a stone and how other neighbors contributed the rest of the ingredients, potatoes, carrots, scraps of meat, etc. until there was a hearty stew to share. And Roger, who remains so thankful for our help in getting an income and an apartment seven years ago that he still gives to Good Shepherd regularly from “Roger’s Foundation.” These small but regular donations have helped many other homeless and hungry people. He also uses the car that we made available to him at a low price to take people to Doctor’s appointments and to church. He never asks for anything back. If someone gives something he is likely to use it for Roger’s Foundation donations. And there was Gilbert who brought us half of his disability check one Christmas, saying he is still thankful for his Senior Housing. We did not want to accept it but he insisted. Eddie lived in our hospitality center at the church for over two years before he was granted a well deserved Disability settlement. He not only payed us back “rent” but has donated over four thousand dollars to the church. This is the widowers mite. Lili shops at yard sales and brings her treasures to the church to give to others. And Lauretta, carries heavy produce and canned goods on the bus to our Tuesday ministry to share with the others. Above is Lauretta with Donnie, and Lili and Linda and their girls helping Brenda move in to her new apartment. Below, in the middle of three men is Eddie. Then we have Pearl and Lisa who regularly cook for and serve our people. On my right seated on my right in the last picture is Roger.
In our Good Shepherd church we have a sort of reverse offering. People put what they can in the plate and we are thankful for anything given. We are grateful to for those attending regularly who are of better means who give regularly- about 5 or six people. (And we are overwhelmed by the caring of those people who donate regularly although they do not even live in Florida). But we say on Sundays that money is not needed:-we ask that everyone touch the plate in a symbolic gesture of putting your heart in the plate. We explain that giving one’s heart and one’s self to God is the most precious gift they can give, and everyone can give it. I love watching people as they very seriously do this. If anyone has need they can ask us after church and we will share from the offering and other funds.
Yet, as Jesus often does, he goes farther in his teaching on giving. He comments on giving all, not just from one’s surplus and praises the poor widow for giving her all. He accuses some of the religious leaders who love to pray aloud of exploiting widows and using prayer as a cover-up. There are many who give to the church and other charities out of compassion and generosity. We are often in awe of such giving. Some of the givers are well off and some have more than enough, and some are poor. But, alas, as anyone who has to ask for funding knows- some who have a lot may give very little and some who have very little may give completely. That generosity of heart is what Jesus is talking about in today’s Gospel. It applies not only to money, but to time and sharing of goods and resources, talents and skills. Jesus is asking for wholehearted giving. Give all you can-even if it is a smile, a word of encouragement or affirmation or used items in good shape that someone else can use. And yes, share your money so someone else can live. Jesus told the parable of the man who saved everything in a barn and then, instead of sharing his huge gain, he built a bigger barn for savings when the first was full. Jesus , like Elijah here, is saying give it away and God will provide, but many have trouble with this.
Jesus was also speaking about cheating the poor-about usury as there were strong Mosaic laws against this also providing for debt easement not saddling people with debt. I cannot believe how current this teaching is. I can give example after example of poor people , with “low credit ratings” being charged interest in amounts that are nothing less than astronomical and immoral . One family who attends regularly and gives much service to the church needed a vehicle for work. The car they bought from a local car dealer with the help of the church passed an initial mechanic’s inspection. But,it was in such bad internal shape that it only lasted six months. They went to a bigger car dealer,Carmax, who sold them a car well above what it was worth recommending Santander Bank for a loan for those with with poor credit. Santander worked out a deal where they would pay three times what the overpriced car was worth in interest over the life of the loan, over thirty-five thousand dollars. And in the first month they raised the monthly fee to five hundred dollars monthly. The family had to choose between housing and a car. Their rent too was well above market rate. It was obvious that this family could not pay these payments from the start. Hence the car was repossessed and they now have high payments for a car they do not have and a worse credit history. Someone in the church has now given them a car and when the wage earner returns to good health it will be used for work. The Psalm says God loves poor and the just but thwarts the wicked. Jesus is very strong on condemning those who exploit the poor. God forgive me for hoping those who take advantage of the poor will get a taste of their own medicine. I know how stressed and struggling this family is. I am feeling some of Jesus’righteous indignation here about the “car loan”. And I am praying for blessings on the generous and compassionate givers, of their money, their goods and mainly, themselves. Blessed are the poor, and those who give so the poor may live. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee,RCWP
CoPastor with Rev. Judy Beaumont RCWP
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Florida
goodshepmin. org our website
And now for word from the church in Ohio-Rev. Beverly Bingle’s Homily
Jesus is not sitting in a quiet corner of the Temple
praying with his eyes closed.
He’s looking around, eyes wide open.
He sees the officials of his religion—the Scribes—
parading around in long robes.
He sees them strutting in to take the best seats.
He hears them demanding to be addressed with titles of respect,
setting themselves apart and above the rest of God’s people.
He hears them reciting long prayers
to show off and draw attention to themselves.
And he sees them taking advantage of widows and orphans.
Jesus sees what they’re doing… and what they’re not doing.
They recite the Shema, often.
They know about love of neighbor, but they don’t practice it.
They say one thing… and do another.
For them, love of self has replaced the love of God.
We get used to the way things are.
It seems like they’ve always been that way,
and we tend not to see them as clearly.
We take it for granted that that’s the way things are supposed to be.
Jesus notices the gap
between what is preached and what is practiced,
and he points it out: his is the voice of a prophet.
If we’re paying attention days,
we see some of the leaders of our institutional church
behaving like those Scribes.
We see some of them living in luxury
while cutting programs for the poor.
Ten of the 34 active archbishops in the United States
live in buildings worth more than $1 million.
New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan, for example,
leads the pack with a $30 million mansion.
Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford, Connecticut, is on the list,
with almost 9,000 square feet in his $1.85 million mansion.
That’s not counting hundreds of retired and active Catholic bishops
in smaller cities with similarly lavish lifestyles.
In the first reading we saw a widow, poorest of the poor,
with a son to support, facing starvation.
Elijah the prophet asks from her
the very bread that is the last food she has
for her son and herself.
Like the poor among us today, she shares what she has.
And in the gospel there’s another widow.
Jesus notices the two cents she drops in the collection.
The pittance she offers is all she has.
It’s not extra.
And Jesus teaches
that her pennies count more
than all the pomp and ceremony and lip service
from the wealthy.
Ruby Payne, author of Bridges out of Poverty,
talks about the generosity of poor people
who give what they have to friends, family, church, neighbors.
Others have shared with them in their time of need,
so they share what they have
when someone else is in need.
They’ll use their rent money to bail a neighbor out of jail.
They’ll skip work for a day to take care of a grandchild.
And like the widow in today‘s gospel,
they’ll drop the bit that’s left over at the end of the week
into the collection basket at church.
The poor give away things they can’t live without.
To help others, they do things they really don’t want to do.
They seem to us to be foolish, giving away things they really need.
Violet will be giving birth to a daughter in the next week or so.
She showed up several months ago at Claver House,
exhausted and sick.
She found a change of clothes on the “free table”
and washed up in the bathroom.
She was told about Sparrows’ Nest women’s homeless shelter.
She was told about Heartbeat.
She was told about the food pantry.
In a couple of weeks she started looking better.
She had a place to live.
She had seen a doctor for pre-natal care.
She had a crib and baby stuff.
All those goods and services
came from generous people who noticed.
Toledo is full of generous people.
You can’t help but notice them.
There’s the teacher, just retired,
who has donated a classroom full of supplies
to the Padua Center.
There’s the nursing home resident
who spends her time phoning people
who don’t have anyone to talk with.
Big things and little things, time and skills and money.
There’s all the volunteers in soup kitchens and pantries,
going out of the way to drive someone home when it’s raining,
the runners and walkers in marathons,
the generous folks
who help a neighbor or a family member or a stranger.
We see it all over—people in the habit of giving
without counting the cost.
Whenever we notice someone speaking out against injustice
or stepping up to fill a need,
we’re inspired by their virtue.
We don’t have to wonder how they got that way.
We know that those big acts of love happen
because they have practiced doing little acts of kindness,
time and again, over and over,
making generosity a habit.
It’s the way they live:
like the widows in today‘s readings,
a piece of bread, a few coins,
given freely and joyfully,
given even when it’s all you have.
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m.
Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue (Washington Church)
Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006