God notices our coins: A homily for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

widows-miteSometimes the smallest gift means the most. It is the story of the first reading and the story of the Gospel. It is also the story of an Oklahoma City priest. This priest, he lived and served in the panhandle of Oklahoma in depths of the Great Depression, in the dustbowl, in a land known as “no man’s land.” He spent himself in ministry there until he thought he could give no more, and then he would give some more. That priest gave everything. When it came time for his 25th anniversary, a huge milemark, his people wanted to do something for him even while they had so little. They took a piece of cardboard and wrote on it, “Happy Anniversary, Father.” Then they taped 25 quarters to the cardboard. This was all the priest was given for that milestone anniversary, because it was all his people had. And yet he treasured that gift more than anything else he had even owned in his life. To his dying breath, he gazed upon it hanging above his bed in love. It meant everything to this priest.

The widow in today’s Gospel gave “from her poverty,” the bible says. It wasn’t much, but it was something. Along the side of the treasury, there were 12 medal bins–kind of like what used to be at tollbooths–with medal boxes at the bottom, one for each tribe. People would deposit their coins there, and sure enough everybody would notice. It made a lot of noise when folks would contribute their shekels and denarii. “Listen to what Benjamin just gave,” folks might have said. “Levi, they just gave a fortune.” But then came the widow with two of the smallest, most insignificant coins–the mites, made of little more than dirt. They were trivial and surely made no noise when she put them in. Nobody even noticed.

Except Jesus noticed. He noticed that gift, and not only that; he held up that woman as an example for all, for she gave out of her poverty. She gave all she had. That donation—it meant as much, even more, to Jesus than the 25 quarters meant to the Oklahoma priest I mentioned. Sometimes our sacrifices, our coins, our gifts of time and talent—sometimes they seem so small to us and everybody else, totally insignificant. But to God, to God they mean everything. He treasures them. I will leave you with this. It is a poem written by Fr. Larry Richard’s grandmother.

What, giving again, I said in dismay? It seems I just keep giving and giving and giving away. Oh no, said the angel, piercing me through….just give until God stops giving to you.