Give What is Due

A Reflection on the Readings from Tobit & Mark for Saturday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Brothers and sisters, today’s reflection is going to be a little different.  I felt convicted that to write too many of my own thoughts today would be detracting from what is already in the readings, so instead I offer you a letter of sorts that I have compiled from today’s readings.

“My Child,

I will now tell you the whole truth; I will conceal nothing at all from you.

I once declared from atop a mountain, “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.”  Since then many people have wrestled with what I really meant, so allow me to tell you a story.

One day I sat opposite the collection box and watched people donate their money.  There were wealthy people who gave large sums.  Then, a poor widow came and put in two small coins worth a few cents.  I called my disciples around, just as I call you.  I told them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other benefactors.  They have all given from their surplus wealth, but she gave from her poverty.  She gave all she had, her whole livelihood.”  This is what it means to be poor in spirit.  To be willing to let go of these earthly possessions because it is all from God and will go back to serving God’s will.  The virtuousness of this widow’s action does not make the vice surrounding her any less heartbreaking.

Our immediate reaction might be to lift up this widow in prayer.  This is good, just as it was I who presented and read the record of your prayer before the Glory of the Lord.  But do not allow prayer to become a pretext for neglecting charity and justice.  This pretext is the heartbreaking vice that surrounds the widow and I warn you of this because there are those who have forgotten that prayer and fasting are good, but better than either is almsgiving accompanied by righteousness.  Because of their forgetfulness, the widow’s entire livelihood was eaten up, while others remained comfortable in their surplus.  They will receive a very severe condemnation.  For a little wealth with righteousness is better than abundance with wickedness.  It is better to give alms than to store up gold.

Now this attitude of poverty of spirit doesn’t just apply to putting money in the collection basket.  We don’t really become detached from our wealth until we start to recognize God’s hand in the skills, talents, and opportunities that brought it to us in the first place.   Thus, this poverty extends not only to money, but also to honor, glory and praise.  Child, thank God! Give him the praise and the glory.  Before all the living, acknowledge the many good things he has done for you, by blessing and extolling his name in song; even if you can’t sing.  Honor and proclaim God’s deeds, and do not be slack in praising him.  A king’s secret it is prudent to keep, but the works of God are to be declared and made known. Praise them with due honor.

And if you truly wish to honor all that He has done for you, see how He provides so that you too may provide for others.  Child, see to it that you give what is due to those making the journey with you.  This is just in the eyes of Our Father.  He wishes for you to do this because He knows that those who regularly give alms shall enjoy a full life; but those habitually guilty of sin are their own worst enemies.”

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