The gift of the heart

7 November, 2021 32nd Sunday, Year B

Carmel has been a widow for five years. Christmas and New Year are anxious and depressing times for her, especially now that she’s on her own. In need of help and a listening ear, Carmel reached out to Sr Joan, who’s been a great support to Carmel since her husband’s death. 

Sr Joan gave Carmel the name and address of a poor and frail elderly couple. “This old couple are in a very difficult situation, Carmel.  See what you can do for them,” Sr Joan urged. 

Carmel was taken aback!  It wasn’t the response she expected and nor did it seem the answer to her own plight.

Reluctantly, Carmel went to see the elderly couple the next day. She found them in a small unit, barely able to manage basic tasks, including cooking for themselves. They were struggling and frightened. Carmel promised to help them. Over the next couple of weeks, Carmel cooked delicious and healthy meals as well as baking a few sweet treats!

After New Year, Carmel went to see Sr Joan, this time with a more positive outlook on life.  She had a ‘spring in her step’ and a beaming smile on her face. “I haven’t cooked or baked very much since my husband died,” Carmel explained. “But shopping and cooking for my new friends has helped me to ‘live’ again, find happiness and rediscover what’s really important about Christmas and New Year.” 

In today’s readings we meet two more widows. The first, the widow of Zarephath encounters the prophet Elijah, who’s on his way to confront 400 false prophets of Baal. Elijah finds himself in a foreign land during a deadly famine. Despite her personal fears, the destitute but incredibly generous widow gives Elijah all she has. Little did she know that her extraordinary gesture of generosity and kindness would change her life forever: “For the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry…’”

The second widow, featured in the gospel, gives ‘everything’ (two small coins) from her limited resources to the Temple, while others, from their abundance, splash their wealth around for all to see. Jesus praises the widow for her generosity and vulnerable trust in God’s providential care, because she gave quietly and lovingly from her heart.

These stories teach us not to measure our gifts by their appearance. The value of a gift is in the heart and when the heart gives, no matter what the gift is, how great or small, if the heart gives it, then it’s blessed in God’s eyes. 

When we act with vulnerable trust in the face of evidence to the contrary, it can bring about transformation beyond our limited capacity. Through our small but generous acts of love, compassion and solidarity, God’s grace and goodness abound                                                               

 David J Hore CSsR

© Majellan Media 2021