I am struck by today's Gospel reading for Mass, from Matthew 12. The last line of the verse and parable regarding those who gave from their surplus compared to the widow who gave all she had to give, is powerful.
We may look at it literally and feel frustrated, for in our daily lives we cannot be irresponsible in this our society, and give away everything, our last penny, when we have family to rear and care for, bills to pay, mortgages, medical costs and housing costs, transportation requirements, and income taxation.
But when we peer into the intent and spiritual aspects, we discover that Jesus is asking us to give all we have, as in the whole effort and desire. To contribute all we have is rooted in our intention and desire, and very much in our love of God and others. The example He used in the parable of the woman giving her last mite, her last bit of money, grabs the attention and makes the point more visually and experientially than if He had gone into a discourse in giving all we have of our whole selves--body, mind, heart, and spirit.
Jesus explains this latter to a different audience, later in His public ministry and by the very nature of his efforts and life on earth--right down to his death by crucifixion.
But it is in contributing--that word contributing-- and also contributing all we have that we each can come up with any number of ways we can give all we have, at least spiritually through the fulfillment of the law, of which God's law of love is the fulfillment of all other laws.
Love God in Himself, and love others as ourselves.
As a consecrated Catholic hermit who is in tough financial circumstances right now, giving money has not been prudent. But I am trying to give all I have, to contribute all in other ways. How, you may ask? I will give some current examples. You will come up with many of your own ways to contribute all, with ease and a little consideration. In fact, perhaps this exercise in contributing all we have might open our minds to new possibilities to give even more than we thought possible!
When a family had a need to sell their home due to job loss, we can stop much of what we are doing and help them prepare their home for a buyer. We can negotiate deals with store owners for new appliances needed to help in a competitive home sales market. Use the means of our current culture.
Since I have a Lowe's card to save either 5% per purchase or for higher purchase amounts, 6 months of no interest, no payment, I purchased an appliance for them. They will pay off at the end of 6 months. Adding the new appliance as well as negotiating a longer term of payment for a downdraft, duel fuel stove than another store initially offered, got the kitchen pretty much in perfect condition.
I helped install the appliances, giving my all even to climbing over a cabinet to squeeze in where the male family member could not, and then climb out. Was not easy and took my "all" physically! Then there were the stressful times, such as of one member not wanting to install a new utility sink that particular day, with a house looker coming later.
I contributed all I could in negotiating a deal from finding some minor scratches on a new sink of which the store reduced it significantly along with the family member's military discount. Why not install the new sink? So I did. I needed the practice for more of the same, as I may need to hire myself out for such tasks in future.
When tempers started to flare with another situation in which I offered tips on selling a home by owner (have done this with 11 transactions and learned the hard way on some of the tips), I certainly contributed the learned experience. But that insulted the home owner. Can we sometimes contribute too much? Well, no, but we must contribute in a wise way. This nothing hermit forgot to ask, "Do you want to hear my painfully-learned tips on what to do when selling by owner?"
In reviewing the tone of Jesus' parable, I see that He nuanced that the poor woman contributed all she had in a most humble and quiet way. When you are down to your last mite and are willing to give it (and note she was giving it to the church, to the temple, to God in essence), certainly one would be humbled down to the nub and would be contributing out of faith, hope and love. Love is the fulfillment of the law.
A servant or slave working hard to do what the master needs to have done, might hear things or feel a part of the effort or goings-on. But the servant or slave does not opine or speak suggestions unless the master asks or unless the slave asks the master. Consider that Joseph was asked to help the king, and Daniel was asked to interpret the king's dreams.
In other instances, though, such as with Elijah in today's first reading, he told the widow with her son who had only enough for a final meal, to bring him a cake first. It is all a matter of discerning and knowing our place, our role, and what it is that the Lord wishes of us when contributing all.
He wants our full attention, our hearts, our minds, our bodies, and our WILLS. Elijah knew what he was to speak, what to teach, what to prophesy--when and in what situations. But always Elijah contributed all he had. He belonged to the Lord completely. (Of course, the widow was in a most receptive mode to whatever Elijah might say or ask of her because she was humbled down to her last meal and thinking she and her son would die after that.)
We know of so many examples of similar types and personages from the Scriptures; and our greatest example is Jesus, Himself. Look at Me! he told this nothing hermit just a few weeks ago, after all!
In my little personal examples of just a few instances, I had not cash-at-the-ready to give. But I had my willingness to help others, and to keep working despite bodily pain and weariness, despite some stress with those undergoing a time of trial, and also knowing that I was to practice the fulfillment of the law: God's law of love. Yes, I had and have and will have love.
Love does make all the difference. And there are immediate challenges when we begin to fulfill all the laws covered in and by the Law of Love. I cannot say I did all that well, but I contributed all I could and all I had...at the time. Looking back just a couple days, just a couple hours, I can see ways in which I could have loved far better, more prudently, more humbly as a servant would.
But it is a start. And it is a good start in considering as many facets as the Holy Spirit can open up inside my mind and heart, to know concrete ways in which I can contribute all I have. This is a free-will offering, for sure, and it does include contributing monetary resources of course. There are items I could sell if necessary, and it might become necessary to do so. I usually always viewed the parable of the widow's might so literally, regarding monetary contributions--but even now exploring more the giving all of my body, mind, heart, and spirit in temporal, tangible ways, does not preclude giving of things, of objects, of money.
Of course, the other afternoon when back up on the extension ladder which I tied into the house through an upstairs window and was painting the last coat of trim paint on the gable, I pondered how with one misstep or a gust of wind, or the ladder swinging out from the top as could only tie at the bottom of it--I'd be potentially contributing my physical life or at least bodily functionality if I fell.
And so? I am giving my all in the work effort because of the prayer effort involved. I considered that as a consecrated hermit, I have no earthly spouse, am not responsible for or needed by anyone directly, even if might be initially missed a tiny bit by a handful of folks. I told the Lord that I only want heaven, and that my body up there is better than hiring someone else to be up there and have them take that risk. The praying went on from there, onto many topics, persons, situations, and then into nothing to be recalled in particular.
In prayer, we can contribute all we have.
In virtues, in faith, in hope--we can contribute all we have.
In love we can contribute all we have because Jesus Christ has taught us at all levels and ways, about His Love.
God bless His Real Presence in us! Little children (or big ones), let us love one another, as God Is Love!