The Gift of the Poor

Several years ago, there was a march on Washington for the homeless. About 20 Ursulines from Youngstown made that journey by bus to stand with our brothers and sisters.  When we arrived in Washington, we had to take the Metro to the staging area. While riding the Metro, a group of men got on and had to stand in the aisle. It was apparent that this group had not taken a shower in a long time.  As I sat there, I was very uncomfortable. Later we found out that this group of men were homeless and had walked to Washington from a shelter some 20 miles away. They were the faces of those we came to advocate for!

These men, who symbolized the poor, offer us a chance to look at the world through different eyes. Instead of  looking down in pity, they give us a chance to look at a world were material goods are not as important, where sharing one’s daily bread is the norm, not the exception.

The story of the poor widow’s offering gives us this opportunity. And it provides the challenge to discard any pretense money and comfort may bring. Without calculating the cost, the poor widow gave all she had. She took the risk of giving all no matter the cost.  And by sacrificing all, she became totally dependent upon God.

In our gospel today, Jesus holds up the widow as a model of total self-giving necessary for true discipleship.

What are the coins that the widow gave and we are invited to give?  Giving a little bit of time to listen to a friend in spite of being very busy; a daughter caring for an elderly parent and raising a family; a friendly hello to someone who seems alone or down are all examples of small coins that bring life and hope into people’s lives.

It matters not whether what we give is large or small. What matters is the gift of self.

The poor widow gave all she had as gift. She also gives us a gift. She gives us the opportunity to give of ourselves, all that we have.