Commentary on the Gospel of
Later this week, here in the United States, Thanksgiving will be celebrated. Family and friends will be gathering for meals and fellowship, in person or virtually. In secular culture, Thanksgiving holiday is linked with the gift giving focus of the Christmas season. Advertisements, coupons and catalogs have been arriving in legions. The focus on gift giving can shift from joyous generosity to anxiety about what to give, which persons should receive gifts, confusion about what gifts would be appropriate and what resources should be spent.
In today’s gospel from Luke, Jesus commends the offering made by the poor widow. He says: “I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.” On the first Sunday of this month, we heard this same teaching from Jesus in the Gospel from Luke. This is a teaching that bears frequent repetition.
This profound and challenging teaching from Jesus helps me explore how I want to express both my gratitude during this Thanksgiving week and my love during the Christmas season. I pray for the grace to understand how can I give not from “my surplus but from my livelihood”?
Jesus honoring the widow from offering her whole livelihood can feel overwhelming. As I pray with his words, I hear Jesus asking me to center my life to him. He is not asking me to give away all of my worldly possession, but he does ask me to question how I use my privilege responsibly. Jesus is extending a call to action, not a reprimand. Feeling guilt or shame for what we have can be sinful, as the focus on self prevents us from being in service to others.
This Thanksgiving as I enjoy preparing a meal for my family, I pray to hear what else my loved ones need. From my livelihood can I give my family members my time and attention in the form that meets their desire? Can I let go of my expectations of how they engage in family time? How can I be available to someone who is very challenging to me? As I develop my Christmas gift-giving list, can my eyes be opened to who needs to be on the list? Can I aspire to be like the widow and share the resources that are my livelihood: my time, autonomy, power, knowledge, health, compassion, creativity, and spirituality? Digging deep to truly give can feel scary but I rely on my faith in God. What a wonderful focus for thanksgiving!