Widow’s Mite

Arrogance…self-conceit…superiority…haughty…pretentiousness…

What happened that cold, icy night? April 14, 1912. (This is where you talk!)

Titanic. Greatest ship ever built. It’s where I heard the word “steerage” for the first time describing those passengers in the lower, lower bottom of the vessel. And, I experienced steerage traveling on Southwest Airlines with their weird standing in line.

Total passengers are around 2,229…surviving? Around 700.

I love our First World culture, where I get to indulge and enjoy the lavishes unseen or unfelt by the millions of others. Our Catholic/Christian church beliefs and practices are easy to follow. You take our First World benefits and then opposite them to following the teachings of Jesus Christ. It’s that easy to diagnose but all the more difficult to live while still living in our First World opulence. 

Poverty… vulnerability…inferiority…simplicity…humility…

The happiest people I’ve ever met live in Third World countries. Three visits to three of them, and I arrive home to count my suits and sport coats. Dress shirts counting continued the next day. What am I to do?

This sermon is not about guilt. I’m sure we’re all heard enough of those.

You will also be surprised that this is not about money. However, cash appears to define our arrogance and vanity. This sermon is about a widow’s mite. The essential giving from her personhood is due to her most minor giving—one-fifth of a cent.

You all thought this was all about money? It’s about living and practicing the authentic life gifted to us by God. Life is full of ups and downs, setbacks and successes. Through my “downs” and “setbacks,” I believe I’m a better person, a better priest, a better preacher. That’s taking our First World givens and those Third World’s assumptions and transforming them into the way Jesus Christ taught us to live. 

It’s about being vulnerable, powerless, helpless in life’s next moments or encounters. That’s the mite of the widow. And, that’s one-fifth of our commitment to the sacrifice of Christ.

Just recount your own troubling life of its “downs” and “setbacks.” Did they make you richer in bitterness or bless you with more compassion, love, and mercy in your encounters with others? Our arrogance will always continue to fight for first place (sin), yet our “widow’s mite” (sacrifice) is our loving return of life’s gift to God and to each other. 

On Titanic, Rose and Jack were made-up characters. The only true Titanic survivor story I know of is Molly Brown. Even in her newly-acquired earthly wealth, she never lost her humanly authentic self, the poverty of her earlier life. That’s all Jesus Christ asks of us. “Unsinkable” was the added adjective to her name. Can we be unsinkable? Can we be unstoppable in our Catholic behaviors and practices?

Poverty? Superiority? In faith and because of faith, you decide for yourselves. Jesus expects the whole of our lives, in his name, but he’ll happily settle for one-fifth.

About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). www.Salvatorians.com. Serving as Administrator, St. Catherine of Alexandria, 8661 N. 76 Place, Milwaukee, WI. 53223. www.stcatherinemke.org. Six books on the Catholic church and U.S. culture are available on Amazon.com.
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