THE COST OF GIVING
HOMILY – 32nd SUNDAY [B] 2018
My mother was a widow for 35 years. I never knew what that meant for her until a few years after her death when I visited a parishioner, also a widow, who told me the death of her husband had meant the loss of her greatest treasure.
For a long time I was very angry with God, she said. He’d taken my best friend without asking; and gave no apology! But I’m ok now. After I heard the gospel story about the widow putting everything she had to live on into the Temple treasury, I knew what I had to do: I was able to let the death of my husband become my gift to the Lord. I’ve had such peace since then.
Her words helped me realise the struggle my mother experienced, losing her best friend while their marriage was still young. She was a woman at peace with herself and I had taken that for granted, not appreciating the sacrifice her peace had cost her. My mother had also been challenged by the news, less than one year after their marriage, that her husband was missing in action in North Africa during the Second World War. He was later found to be a prisoner of war.
Far too many families have faced these kind of challenges in wars of the past century – which makes our remembrance of today’s 100th anniversary of the ending of World War I so important. Going without, making do with less or giving up their greatest treasure, was the mark of those at home, while their loved ones fought overseas. Death is the coinage of war; those who returned home were never the same, making the sacrifice of those who loved them and who went without while they were away, a price beyond measure.
Jesus observed the widow giving everything she had; the prophet Elijah
asked the same of the widow with scarcely enough to feed her and her son. Both widows were blessed in their giving; their lives prospered in peace. The real measure of any gift is not what is given or what it means to the receiver, but what it cost the giver. Every widowed person has given all they had to live on, making them very precious in the eyes of God.
For some time now, we’ve been promoting the principle of Stewardship, where the gifts of time, talent and treasure, from each person according to their ability, build up the community by creating a real sense of ownership. We were doing quite well until the cathedral had to be closed. Our Sunday numbers have dropped by a half. Consequently, the people available to serve in the various ministries have dropped, putting more pressure on fewer people. And with less of you, our income is suffering. For the first time in the years I have been here, the parish can no longer meet its weekly financial commitments, and ahead of us is the expense of strengthening the cathedral!
So, while we give thanks for those who gave everything in wartime for the freedoms we now enjoy, I urge you to look at your own response to the sacrifices required today. None of you has nothing to offer. All of you have something to give. If you’ve not been in the habit of giving anything, even a few coins or offering to serve as a volunteer will make a positive difference. Remember, whatever the gift costs you, will be the measure of its value.