GENEROSITY IN OUR POVERTY

November 7, 2021 – 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/110721.cfm)

At the beginning of this pandemic, if you can remember, there was a kind of panic buying that happened. When the government announced to impose ECQ then MECQ in major cities, people lined up in markets and supermarkets to secure their food supply as well us vitamins and sanitizers. There was even a time that it was too difficult to buy alcohol, even bread and canned goods. Malls, supermarkets and pharmacies have regulated the purchase of food and medical supplies. There was even a time here in Cebu when the Provincial Government regulated the purchase of oxygen tanks because of panic buying.

What really drove people to panic buying? What also made people to hoard things? It must be the thought of running out of supply and of fear for not having enough. There might not be enough for us that leads us to get what we need as much as we can, but not minding the needs of others.

Such attitude can actually still exist even without a crisis. We could believe that we always need to secure something for ourselves. Thus, people who tend to accumulate things, whatever that is, whether food, toys, clothing, gadgets or even attention and acceptance from others could suffer from a feeling of inadequacy and endless insecurity. Because of that feeling of being insufficient and insecure then, it would lead us to accumulate more and even to the point of becoming a greedy hoarder.

Yet, this attitude of the heart prevents us to become generous and to become persons God desires us to be. However, our feeling of inadequacy and insecurity should not even prevent us. These are ways for us rather to become life-giving and to be truly generous.

As a matter of fact, true generosity is expressed out of our poverty, out of our insecurities. This is what we have heard in today’s readings. So allow me now to bring you a bit deeper into the scriptures revealed this Sunday.

In the First Book of Kings, Elijah asked for water to drink and bread from a widow. Remember, at that time, there was famine. Food was scarce. In fact, the widow expressed to Elijah her food insecurity. She only had a handful of flour and a little oil in her jug. Those must not even be enough for her and her son to be fully satisfied. She knew that after consuming that, there will be none anymore. This was the reason why she said to Elijah that their death was coming. Meaning, that will be their last meal for food has gone out.

But the surprising event was, the widow out of her poverty and food insecurity did not even complain but gave her last bread to Elijah. And a miracle happened, the Lord repaid her generosity. Her flour never ran out and her oil never ran dry. For a year, they were able to eat and they survived from the famine.

The same expression of generosity was told to us in the Gospel of Mark. Jesus observed how people gave their offerings or tithes and saw the difference between scribes, the rich and powerful people in contrast with a poor widow.

The scribes or the scholars of the law were merely concerned of getting attention and praise. They want people to recognize and honor them. They sought for that, expressed in their lengthy prayers yet they would amass the remaining properties of the widows and indifferent to their struggles. These people just wanted and desired power, control and dominance. Hence, their contribution to the Temple was something of a show. What they gave was only something from their excess, not from the heart. They were concerned on what they can get and on what was beneficial for them. This was the warning Jesus gave to his disciples. Jesus, actually, denounced the three attitudes of the scribes and the powerful in that society.[1]

The first attitude Jesus denounced was the desire for prominence and influence rather than the value of giving oneself to serve others. The second was the desire for recognition, esteem and control rather than promoting the good of others through humble service. And the third that Jesus denounced was the desire in attempting to use one’s position, one’s power for self-gain and self-promotion.

However, in these three desires and attitudes of the scribes and the powerful at that time, there was no true worship of God. They could have been faithful in their attendance in the Temple and in their daily devotion, but then, their hearts were filled of themselves.

They were not worshipping God. They worshipped themselves. They were not giving something to the Lord. They were investing to get something out of it.

True generosity and true act of worship can be found in the person of that widow who offered her last two coins to the Temple. Her coins were greater in value than the many given by the rich and powerful.

Why? Because what she gave was not an excess of her wealth. What she gave was her everything. She just gave all she had. That poor widow gave back to God what she has and gave out of her poverty, completely trusting God’s providence and being contented of what she has on that day. This is God’s invitation for us today that we grow in our desire not to accumulate more, not in our desire to be honored or to gain power and dominance over others, but to grow in our capacity to go beyond ourselves, beyond our poverty and insecurity by giving from our heart.

Thus, share generously what we have now to those who are most in need and give to God out of our gratitude. We do not have to wait to become materially rich before we give, because even the poorest of among us can give something to others. A gift given out of our insecurity is our best act of generosity. Hinaut pa.


[1] From the Homily of Bishop Manny Cabajar, CSsR, DD.

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