|by Angela Lambert|
Faith-filled Giving, Authentic Discipleship
November 8th, 2015; 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel Mark 12:38-44 NAB
In the course of his teaching Jesus said to the crowds, “Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.” He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”
Jesus observes two persons and each teaches us something different about discipleship and giving. Growing up both my parents communicated their conviction about giving in word and action. They taught us about tithing and the responsibility of stewardship. Stewardship refers to how God gave human persons the responsibility and authority to care for gifts He entrusts to us. This includes Creation (see Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si), our talents, possessions, money, opportunities, and time. Scripturally and traditionally, tithing has been defined as giving God the first 10% of one’s income. My parents taught us to give 5% to our parish and 5% to charitable giving of our choice. This, they also taught, is just the beginning. One is called to be generous of heart and put all that one has been given at the service of Christ. Even if one has no income, is sick and suffering, unable to “do” anything for anyone else, that person can offer their suffering and prayers which has great power to build up the Church.
The rich people Jesus observed contributed from their “surplus.” It’s valuable to give but it doesn’t take faith to give your extra. Moreover, Jesus juxtaposes this observation with His critique of a hypocritical attitude which desires honor for oneself rather than giving honor to God. I personally know certain rich persons who give from faith not just surplus and who do so with great humility and gratitude. I have also observed other persons who only give if it will be visible to others, they will be recognized, and others will “see what a good person they are.” At times, the gift, though it looks large, is either merely the 10% they ought to give anyway or less.
Our parish should not have to “beg” for money. It’s our responsibility to give to God the honor and faith He deserves and giving the first 10% of our paycheck is a concrete way to show it. Unfortunately, it’s hard to remember to bring the check to Mass when I am trying to just get us all there on time, showered, and dressed somewhat appropriately. The longer I wait though the more burdened I feel. When my parish offered the option to have my tithing paid through automatic deduction from my checking account I signed up. I have my paycheck automatically deposited, and I have a great peace knowing my tithing is automatically given to God too. Many people say that you cannot out-give God. This is absolutely true; ask anyone who has ever tried. It’s okay to attend charitable banquets or galas, but let’s be intentional about our giving and remember that we are merely doing our duty as stewards to a God who has been so generous to us and is the source of all we have.
The widow in this passage challenges us to give God not just 10%, but everything. As a poor widow, in a time and culture where she would have no opportunity to earn a living, she was completely dependent on God. She demonstrated her faith when she gave Him the little she had. In the first reading today (1 Kgs 17:10-16) another poor widow showed similar faith by giving Elijah her last meal. He promises her that if she does this for God’s prophet, God will not let her flour or oil run out until the drought is over. She makes a leap of faith and prepares the little cake for Elijah. God keeps His promise by providing what she needs. I wonder if the widow Jesus observed was recalling the same event when she gave her last coin. Jesus, who knows and judges hearts, holds her up as an example of profound giving.
Discipleship is not for minimalists. Jesus does not call us to mediocrity. Jesus demonstrates that love means giving one’s whole self with abandon to God, trusting in His goodness and love. Giving God 10% or more means acknowledging that He gave you 100% and it’s the least you can do. The more you love the easier it is to give. When we love God deeply, giving to Him can bring deep joy.
- Reflect on all of God’s gifts in your life – people, relationships, opportunities, food (especially ice cream!), clothing, housing, work, beauty in nature, His saving Truth and grace…
- How have you benefited from the generosity of others?
- Consider or “observe” someone authentically generous. Is there something(s) they do you could imitate?
- Reflect on how you can’t out-give God. Consider how God always blesses you with more the more you give.
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- Evaluate your giving and make a plan:
- Financially – pray about how much to give to your parish, what charities you want to support, what people in your life you might give to.
- Time – be intentional about making time for your family, friends, neighbors, parish, and local charities.
- Talents – pray about who you could help with your skills, knowledge, etc.
- Add warmth to your home
- In his homily at the World Meeting of Families, Pope Francis commented on the solitude and loneliness that plagues our culture pointing to “the paradox of a globalized world filled with luxurious mansions and sky scrapers but a lessening of the warmth of homes and families.”
- Add warmth to your home for your family and share that warmth with others in your life you could reach.
- Pray for a heart of gratitude and the eyes to see the needs of others around you.
- Giving can be simple: a cup of coffee, a warm smile, helping someone save face, showing patience toward someone, giving encouraging words or recognition, fixing something if you’re mechanical, helping someone with technology if you’re computer savvy…
~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2015
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