Jesus said, “This poor widow cast in more than all they that are casting into the treasury: for they all did cast in of their surplus but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.”
On one of my airplane trips I noticed a guy with a carry-on bag that was nicer than mine. “Ummm,” I thought to myself. Then I also spotted that he had nicer shoes on and an expensive looking haircut, unlike mine. It made for a lousy trip to Florida. When I got home the bag was easy to replace but no luck with those shoes or haircut. I never saw that guy again but it doesn’t matter because he now lives within me.
Is it possible to hate someone you’ve never met?
If I asked you now to raise your hand if you think that you’re rich, not one of you would do it. You’d instantly think of folks with more money than yourself. If I asked you if you were well above the poverty line than your hand would sheepishly go up. (I think that makes you rich.)
We all do it whether we admit it or not. A prettier blouse on her, a smarter looking suit on him, a baby grand piano at that dinner party and you return to your home and your used out-of-tune upright.
If you’re older, just try telling me that you didn’t want a leisure suit and Neru shirt. If you’re younger, just try telling me that “mother” tattooed on your arm was a smart idea because you saw that your friend had one. (But just remember that “mother” tattooed at 18 becomes “mmmmmmmm” at 50!)
The “poor widow” wasn’t poor at all. She was wealthy in knowing who she was, what she could do and what she couldn’t do. The “poor widow” was poor on cash but rich in personal insight. She stopped playing games with herself and proudly stood before others as the “poor widow.” She may have had personalized stationary with the “poor widow” at the top of it, if she could only afford it. She gave from what she had. She gave from her heart. It was not the amount of her giving, it was from what she had to give. She knew who she was and provided accordingly to help the poor. Go figure the “poor widow” is helping out those who are poorer.
I’d love to send Pope Francis $10,000 but I fear the check would bounce, the bishop would hear about it, it’d be printed in your parish bulletin, this would be my last Mass here and years later you would ask each other, “Who was that priest who used to help out here and bounced a check to the pope?”
When does this personal realization stuff occur and finally take hold in our lives? When does it finally kick in “who we are” and “what we are about?” When do we own the parameters of what we own. It’s not just money; it’s energy, enthusiasm, personal investments and interests. I fear to tell you but I think it happens through experience and age. If you’re that rare young person with these insights than “God bless you,” you are both fortunate and way ahead of this game called life.
For the rest of us life whittles down to a growing age of personal knowledge and wisdom. Do you get it? You “whittle down” in order to grow. You go on a retreat to “empty yourself,” you go out with friends for dinner to “empty yourself” of the woes of work, you take quiet time at home to “empty yourself” of whatever’s filling you down. When empty again, you slowly begin to refill and fill some more and then the time will come again to “empty yourself.” That’s what “poverty” means in our present affluent society. If life is a “gift,” then growing older and wiser is our return of this “gift” to God.
If life is a “gift,” then growing older and wiser is our return of this “gift” to God. It’s that simple. Each of us can only act honestly and sincerely as Jesus says, “from our poverty.” We are truly rich in so many wonderful ways because we’ve learned to teach ourselves the poverty of nothing. To give of yourself – whether in money or deeds from your surplus is what Scrooge did. It’s meaningless because it means nothing to you. When I’m paying a bill in a restaurant I think to myself when signing the slip, “If I can leave a $5.00 tip then I can leave a $7.00 tip.
I’ve stopped comparing myself to other people a long time ago. It was very difficult but I truly, finally believe that I’ve succeeded.
Except you should know that unlike other priests, I drive a nicer car and preach good…and I finally have a nice carry-on bag.
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