In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched on Jerusalem and besieged it. The Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hands, with some of the furnishings of the Temple of God. He took them away to the land of Shinar, and stored the sacred vessels in the treasury of his own gods.
The king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to select from the Israelites a certain number of boys of either royal or noble descent; they had to be without any physical defect, of good appearance, trained in every kind of wisdom, well-informed, quick at learning, suitable for service in the palace of the king. Ashpenaz himself was to teach them the language and literature of the Chaldaeans. The king assigned them a daily allowance of food and wine from his own royal table. They were to receive an education lasting for three years, after which they were expected to be fit for the king’s society. Among them were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, who were Judaeans. Daniel, who was most anxious not to defile himself with the food and wine from the royal table, begged the chief eunuch to spare him this defilement; and by the grace of God Daniel met goodwill and sympathy on the part of the chief eunuch. But he warned Daniel, ‘I am afraid of my lord the king: he has assigned you food and drink, and if he sees you looking thinner in the face than the other boys of your age, my head will be in danger with the king because of you.’ At this Daniel turned to the guard whom the chief eunuch had assigned to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. He said, ‘Please allow your servants a ten days’ trial, during which we are given only vegetables to eat and water to drink. You can then compare our looks with those of the boys who eat the king’s food; go by what you see, and treat your servants accordingly.’ The man agreed to do what they asked and put them on ten days’ trial. When the ten days were over they looked and were in better health than any of the boys who had eaten their allowance from the royal table; so the guard withdrew their allowance of food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. And God favoured these four boys with knowledge and intelligence in everything connected with literature, and in wisdom; while Daniel had the gift of interpreting every kind of vision and dream. When the period stipulated by the king for the boys’ training was over, the chief eunuch presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. The king conversed with them, and among all the boys found none to equal
Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. So they became members of the king’s court, and on whatever point of wisdom or information he might question them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom.
As Jesus looked up, he saw rich people putting their offerings into the treasury; then he happened to notice a poverty-stricken widow putting in two small coins, and he said, ‘I tell you truly, this poor widow has put in more than any of them; for these have all contributed money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in all she had to live on.’
…but she from the little she had has put in all she had to live on.
Recently, I read in our local newspaper about an elderly 83-year-old man, who lives in a one room rental flat. While busking, Mr. Lee would meet elderly needy folks and will open up his humble home – to 3 men over a period of a decade. He looked after his housemates, giving them a roof over their heads, took care of their needs. He fed them, clothed them and bathed them on the little savings he had of his own. Over a period of 4 years, two of his housemates passed away right in his home. For each housemate, he arranged the funeral, mourned and paid his respects to them. Mr Lee was not related to either of the men. “We are all in the same boat as each other – we have only each other to rely on,” said Mr Lee. He received an award that honours caregivers for their strength, resilience, and unwavering dedication in caring for their loved ones amid challenges. Yet in all humility and love, Mr Lee said, “I’d take care of them even if I didn’t get an award. This is just my way of caring for others.” Not only that, when the news of his deeds reached the media, offers of donations and help poured in. Yet, he politely declined every one of them, asking instead that donors help those less fortunate than he is.
This story is so humbling. A man with so little, yet not only was he willing to share with others, he went further by looking after his fellow brothers as though they were his own kin. This man, in his poverty, has given much more than any rich man.
This story reminds me of today’s gospel reading — when Jesus noticed the poor widow’s contribution of two small copper coins. Compared to the rich people’s contribution, her gift was small. “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.” One person who offered assistance to Mr. Lee commented, “He gives so much with the little he has. I have so much but I give so little. It’s really inspiring.” Many comments came in after people heard of his story – “There is just no comparison with people who have more, but have done very much less and are not even aware that they have not done enough.” He is truly the modern day ‘widow’.
I feel so ashamed with myself and my own ‘poverty’. I am by no means a rich person, but I am not poor as well. I have my own hang ups – in that I always worry about my financial future (that’s another story for another time). My ‘poverty’ is that I fail to give like the widow. Yes, I have given to those who need, but I have given out of my abundance, just like the rich people in today’s gospel.
True generosity is not so much giving what I can easily spare as giving what I can’t easily do without.
Pope Francis said: “Faced with the needs of others, we are called to deprive ourselves of essential things, not only the superfluous; we are called to give the necessary time, not only what remains extra; we are called to give immediately and unconditionally some of our talent, not after using it for our own purposes or our own group.”
Today, Jesus invites us to ask ourselves how God, who knows our hearts, looks at us and our efforts. The amount of what we do is not that important for God, for what matters is our generosity — what lies in our hearts.
Today, I ask God for an open heart, ready to give all as this poor widow of the Gospel.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)
Prayer: God, I am aware of how little I have to offer. However, may this not stop me from improving the situation of those who have even less. Give me a large and generous heart like that of the poor widow. To give not from my extras, but to share the little that I have. Lord, help us to be generous and share the many gifts you have bestowed on us. Help us to help those who cannot help themselves, teach us how to give and not count the cost.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for showing me through this widow and the actions of this old man Mr Lee of what it is to be truly generous. Thank you Jesus, for times the generosity of others has helped me. Help me observe what is going on around me, to recognise and to appreciate even small actions of love and care given to me by others. Thank you, above all, for your unconditional love for me.