Opening the Word: Giving all

2 mins read
Two Small Copper Coins or Widows Mites

Timothy P O'MalleyOver the last five years, I have served as the columnist for Opening the Word. My time in this role is coming to an end (but not my time in Our Sunday Visitor). 

The Scriptural texts over the next three weeks give me an apt way to say goodbye to the faithful readers of the column. 

Over the years, I have highlighted the distinct nature of the divine economy of salvation. We human beings, lovers of tit-for-tat, are economically incompatible with God. 

The widow, who gives everything out of her poverty, is a reminder of our need for an economic conversion. The scribes use their religious knowledge and importance to curry favor with their co-religionists. They treat religion as a way of building up their brand, enjoying long dinners at the homes of widows. 

Jesus sees the rich approach the treasury. They give huge sums of money. In essence, they’re building up their brand. Religious people “gotta” give alms. And they do. The poor widow is different. 

In giving her coin, she gets nothing in return. There will be no invitation to a dinner honoring those who have donated. She will not get her name on a building in the Temple complex. 

November 7 – Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kgs 17:10-16
Ps 146:7, 8-9, 9-10
Heb 9:24-28
Mk 12:38-44 or 12:41-44

And yet, it is the poor widow who has given everything. She has given her whole self in giving away all her possessions. That single coin means that she is all in. 

Jesus’ observation of the widow has its roots in the Old Testament. A widow gives drink and feeds Elijah. She has nothing. But through her generosity to a prophet of God, her flour and oil do not go dry for a year. 

This is what God wants from us. God wants us to give not out of our surplus, but out of what we do not possess. 

Abiding in God’s economy is risky. It means that we don’t save any part of ourselves for a rainy day. The kingdom of God that Jesus inaugurates requires us to spend our whole selves. And if we do, God will give us more. 

This is not a return to our own economic logic. We can think that if we give out of our poverty, out of our lack, that we should expect a tangible reward. 

In thinking this way, we fall back into the tit-for-tat. 

No! In giving everything, we get something even more remarkable. We discover that in our poverty, in our total abandonment with Christ, a new source of wealth. 

Union with the beloved. After all, on the cross, it is Jesus who gives out of his nothingness. Out of his pain, his suffering, his condemnation by men and women, he gives everything. 

He is the great high priest of the epistles to the Hebrews, who sacrifices himself once and for all. 

In his death, he puts an end to our own monstrous economy of tit-for-tat. 

And therefore, like the poor widow, we must follow the example of Jesus Christ. We must give everything back to the Father through the Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit. We must hold nothing back. Our sorrows. Our joys. Our weakness. It must be offered back in love to God. Not so that we can get something out of it. But because God’s economy, marked by pure gratuity, is the way toward an unimaginable happiness.

The happiness of the saints, who even now, give themselves to us. They intercede for us because their existence is wholly for God and therefore wholly for us.

Let us long to join their company, their economy of gift beyond gift.

Timothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D., is the director of education at the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame.

Timothy P. O'Malley

Timothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D., is the director of education at the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame.