1st Reading: First Book of  Kings 17:10-16

The widow of Zarephat shares the last of her food with Elijah

So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, "Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink." As he was going to bring it, he called to her and said, "Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand." But she said, "As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die."
Elijah said to her, "Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth."
She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil ail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.

2nd Reading : Epistle to the Hebrews

Christ our High priest opened for us the door of salvation

For Christ did not enter the sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy place year after year with blood that is not his own; for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once , and after that the judgment , so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Gospel: Mark 12:38-44

The offering of the widow had great value in God's sight

As he taught, he said, " Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows' houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation."He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out o her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on."


Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa is very fond of this joke: " When the missionaries came to Africa, we had the land and they had the Bible. They then said, ' Let us pray...' and asked us to close our eyes. By the time the prayer was over, they now had the land and we had the Bible." And he usually ends the joke by adding, "And I think we got the better deal." In this joke we have a substantiation of Karl Marx's criticism of the Christianity of his day as the " opium of the people,"- that which puts people to sleep while the ground under their feet is taken away from them.
In today's gospel Jesus warns his followers against religious leaders who propagate this kind of anaesthetic religiosity. "Beware of the scribes , who ...... devour widows' houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation" ( Mark12:38-40). In the second half of the gospel reading, the story of the widow's Mite we see a tragic example of the product of this kind of religiosity. Jesus commends the victim but condemns the victimizer.

The end of religion must be for man's well being, not for man's exploitation.

Traditionally we have read widow's Mite story as the story about boundless generosity and self-sacrifice. However, we should first read it in the context in which Mark wrote it, as a tragic evidence of the religious exploitation for which Jesus condemned the temple religious establishment. Before reading the story as model to encourage generosity to organized religion we need to read it first as a condemnation of the use of religion to exploit simple, suffering and powerless humanity. Jesus is teaching in the temple. He has just condemned the unscrupulous scribes who devour widow's property under pretext of religious fervor. Then he looks up sees this widow putting "everything she had, her whole living" into treasury and he points to her and says, " See what I mean?" The scribes never literally robbed widow's houses. But by their teaching they exploited widows by persuading them in their privation to give up even the very little they had. In this context, what about our religious leaders and political leaders in our respective countries, how do they deal with the marginalized, poor people and other vulnerable of the society?

Today's scripture tells of a poor widow who showed practical compassion by sharing her last crust with the prophet Elijah. Was she practicing the faith? Indeed because she did what Jesus expects of us.  I was hungry and you...... If you give a cup of water in my name... then that other poor woman in the temple, who quietly put in her last savings so that God would  be properly worshipped, was she practicing the faith, through a work of mercy? Yes, she followed generous  impulse of her heart. Whoever gives whole-heatedly of himself/herself to a worthy cause is following the example of Jesus, whether they are aware of it or not. They have the blessing and are promised their reward.

The cheerful Giver

Gifts from ordinary people support many projects and causes in Catholic Church, just as they kept the Jerusalem temple going in Jesus' day. It may seem strange, but at the same time common truth, that generosity is more widespread among those who seem to have little in terms of money and properties. The story from the gospel reading invites to examine the quality of giving in our lives- this does not only pertain to church's collections, but to whatever worthy cause attracts our attention and our sympathy. More than once Jesus spoke about this subject. Our generosity should entail anonymity, non-fussy way, so that "the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing." An act of generosity should be done because it pleases God rather than winning credit or praise from others. 

The real act of generosity should possess the following qualities: giving up some of our time, giving up our comfort, giving up some of our time for something worthwhile.
We are all invited not only to sharpen our skill for making money, we must also develop, above all, our talent for giving it especially to the needy and the poor one. Ken Wilson called this spiritual talent of giving money as "Generosity Gift."

How do we give? one writer once commented on giving, he said three important things on generosity:
1. Give without blowing your trumpet.
2.Give willingly or not begrudgingly or under compulsion.
3.Mother Theresa' advice was to " give until it hurts."
There is the story of a man called Leo Tolstoy who happened to meet a beggar. Tolstoy searched in his pockets to look for something he could give. However, there was none. He had earlier given away all his money. In his pity, he reached out , took the beggar in his arms, embraced him, kissed him on his hollow checks and said: " Don't be angry with me, my brother, I have nothing to give." immediately, the beggar's lit up. Tears flowed from his eyes, as he said: But you embraced me and kissed me. You called me your brother- You have given me yourself- that is a great gift."

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Chapisha Maoni