32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

During the past two years, our surrounding areas have been affected by man-made and natural calamities. Communities have suffered the ravages of wars and floods. In response to these emergencies, various agencies and groups have initiated relief and rehabilitation activities. The first to be tapped to give assistance are local donors. They are asked to give food, water, clothing,medicine, and cash for the immediate relief of the victims. They are also asked to volunteer their time to pack and distribute the goods to those who are affected.

Action starter: How have you shared this year?

Given our experiences along these activities, we can confidently say that most of our people are very generous. They are generous with their material resources, their time, and their efforts. Families and friends are also generous with their spaces as they welcome evacuees into their yards and homes. It seems that our regular exposure to calamities have awakened the spirit of compassion for those who suffer. Not only has it been evident here in our area of Mindanao. As shown by the recent floods in Luzon, the effort of private groups supplemented government resources and kept government agencies from being swamped by the demands for assistance.

In one of the appeals for relief assistance for flood victims, we emphasied the need for useful and usable clothes, not just “used clothing”. It is fascinating what one unearths among the donated items as one helps pack relief goods. I do not mean to be facetious but what does one do with a wedding gown? Did the donor expect the evacuee to attend a wedding? Given the circumstances , the recipients can perhaps live with items such as bell-bottom pants and other retro-looking garments. Fashions tend to go full circle anyway, The point is, are we just getting rid of items which we do not need anymore?

The readings this Sunday drive home the idea of true generosity. The gospel story is about the widow’s mite. Jesus observed how people were donating money into the temple treasury. Many rich people were putting in large sums but a poor widow put in two small coins. Jesus saw a lesson in this and so he called in his disciples and told them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributions 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” (Mk. 12:43-44).

A similar story is told in the first reading. Elijah the prophet asked a poor widow for water and food. The widow was down to her last bit of flour and oil for herself and her son but she prepared some food for the prophet. Because of her generosity, for a whole year, “The jar of flour did not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, as the Lord had foretold through Elijah” (1 Kng: 17: 10-16).

In both of these stories, a widow appeared as an important character. For cultural reasons, widowhood often times meant living in poverty. It was the husband who earns for the family while the wife attends to the household. If the husband dies while the children are still young, the widow is left to the mercy of kind neighbors and relatives.

The stories of these two widows are lessons in generosity. If the poor can give out of their meager resources, so much more should the wealthier ones share what they have. Giving is making sacrifices. Only the giver really knows how much sacrifice he is making. And God, who sees the heart.

Action starter: How have you shared this year?