32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Last week Neill Raymond shared a couple of poignant stories about being the recipient of gifts that while relatively simple represented a significant self-giving on the part of the one who gave the gifts. I heard the stories three times and each time the gift of the convict’s cookie touched me.
Today’s scriptures tell us the stories of two widows who made similar simple gifts, in one sense, but very powerful gifts in that because of their limited circumstances they were significant gifts of self. They were gifts ultimately to God expressed through feeding God’s prophet in the first reading and paying the temple offering in the Gospel. Both gifts demonstrated an extraordinary faith and trust in God who was the ultimate provider of all things. In the first reading the widow’s trust was rewarded with a miraculous presence of flour and oil for the baking of bread. We don’t know how the widow in the Gospel may have been rewarded other than with the special notice and praise of Jesus for her generosity and faith.
Her giving was contrasted with others who gave. Jesus noted that some of those others were rich people who put in large sums. Nevertheless, Jesus indicated they were giving out of their surplus, their extras. While the poor widow was giving out of her substance, what little she had, her very self.
We have been addressing stewardship over the recent weeks. This has been in the bulletin, in homilies and most recently in the letter you received this week. Today’s scriptures remind us that in being good stewards, in being people who recognize that all we have ultimately is God’ gift, His investment in us, our giving to God of our time, talent and treasure should be from our substance and not our surplus. The best way to give from substance is through deliberate planned decisions to give back to the Lord some portion of our time, talent and treasure. Prayer requires scheduling time and being committed to that time, not waiting for spare time to pray. The giving our talent is best accomplished when we decide on a ministry or public service and make a commitment and make the activity a part of our routine, once again not waiting for extra time for such service. The same is true with regard to the return of some portion of our treasure to the Lord. We best demonstrate giving from our substance when our charitable giving is simply a part of our monthly budget, and not something we do when everything else is taken care of. I have found the online giving approach to make this even easier with my parish contribution as well as one other charitable donation.
In making our gift, our sacrifice, what we offer is transformed into the good works of the Church. This is much like the bread and wine brought forward at the sacrifice of the Mass, and are then transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ.
Last week’s bulletin included a worksheet to help people work out their own spread of charitable donations. The suggestion of the Church is that people determine what portion of their income they will give to charity and then divide it between parish and other charities in the Church or community. One might simply split the giving 50/50. The Church also suggests the classic tithe, or 10% as a worthy goal in one’s overall charitable giving. I have learned over the years that there are certainly those who overall charitable giving exceeds the 10%, but unfortunately the statistics tells us that many people are settling for much less, or somehow excusing themselves from any gift at all.
For most of us, what works best, for ourselves and the Church, is to be able to specify a particular monthly or weekly contribution. And that’s the purpose of the pledge card. We conduct the exercise annually to encourage everyone to make a review of their giving once a year.
I do realize that there are some who, while being able to give charitably, are not able to indicate a specific commitment on a pledge card. Several people returned cards with just such a response last year. And those people, along with the majority who identified a specific commitment, were thanked for responding, for participating in the exercise.