We can only give from our need if we trust that God will provide.
Sunday’s first reading, the widow in Elijah’s time, and the Gospel of the widow in Jesus’ time, prompt us to take a hard look at our individual and communal giving practices. If, as followers of Jesus Christ, we see clearly that God is the giver of all, how do we offer thanks? What portion of our blessings do we give back to honor God and build up God’s Kingdom on earth? We can apply the lesson in this story of the widow’s mite to our current collection of donations to Daystar Hope. With the kind support of the Knights of St. Mark’s parish, and individual donors, we are enabled to distribute gift cards and bus passes to Daystar clients to help brighten their Thanksgiving. Truly, we can all give something, the amount is between the individual and God.
In this reflection instead of emphasizing the spirit of giving often connected with the story of the Widow’s mite, I’d like to share some ideas that convey the perspective that it is not all about GIVING. The Benedictine value of STEWARDSHIP (preserving the earth and respecting people) calls us to responsibility and care rather than oppressive domination. To live out this value can require a radical shift in our thinking. We can too easily become accustomed to regarding earth’s resources as if they had no intrinsic worth beyond their value to us. For example, the demand for fast, prepackaged food contributes to a stripping of rain forests in order to provide pasture land. In the process, many indigenous peoples have been rendered homeless, and the habitat of endangered species has been lost forever. Advances have been made in the production of biodegradable substances but so far it’s only resulted in a reduction in the time it takes plastics and styrofoam to disintegrate – they still constitute a hazard to the environment.
One of the biggest offenders of violence to our environment is plastic bottles. We hear frequently of the health value of drinking more water and those 12-16 oz. bottles are so handy. Some plastics are recyclable or reusable. But others, each time you refill it can leach toxins into the water you will consume. And, in landfills or trash heaps toxic gases are leached into the environment causing a variety of health issues. Landfills in the U.S. have over 2 million discarded plastic bottles that each take up to 1,000 years to decompose. How many thousand years did we toss into the landfill in this week? In the last month? Trying to conserve by switching from plastic to glass containers here in our county is foiled because glass is not recycled.
Our primary motivation is that all (now and in the future) may have a share in God’s gifts. We have to think bigger than the cash register. Each day is our moment to resist any act of violence against creation. It’s a special challenge now when COVID and CDC regs seem to thwart some of our progress. For instance: it’s OUT with a cloth hand towel for everyone’s use; IN with paper towels to avoid the risk of virus transmission.
We wrestle prayerfully with questions about how we can adopt and adapt to a simpler lifestyle – letting go of some things, being patient when our preferences are denied by unavailability of pantry supplies. We have to start where we are, doing what we can, with the insight and energy we have to make a difference. Maybe we begin with one thing, one purchase, one habit a month that we change. For example, spend a few pennies more to make a purchase from a local vendor that you usually make at a big box store. Or make a gallon purchase instead of several smaller bottles. Or take a shorter shower or don’t let the water run as you brush your teeth. Run 2-sided copies and use scrap paper for note pads. After a month, don’t forsake the new habit, keep it up and add a new pattern. By the end of the year you’ll be 12x more conservative. You may ask: how does doing any of this help the people in the 3rd world? The truth is it doesn’t directly. It changes YOU. At the heart of our actions must rest the conviction that our world belongs to God and any misuse dishonors the Creator.
This widow in the Gospel was made destitute by life’s circumstances. We, by no means live a life of destitution – but we know people who do. We are invited to ask ourselves, what can I, what can we, do to reverse the destructive patterns of life that are making a negative impact on our earth and in the lives of those we profess to serve? Each day we are challenged to figure out what to do with our “too much.” The answer is NOT to find an empty shelf or an empty room to store it. If we are not using it, do we REALLY need it? If we haven’t worn it since we moved to this building, who could use it? If we have forgotten we ever had it, did we ever really need it? Are we saving it because, deep down, we don’t trust God to come through for us on a “rainy day?” We can only give from our need if we trust (really and truly) that God will provide.
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB, Prioress
This week we pray for veterans of all nations: for their families who support them and suffer with them … for spouses who raise children in their absence … and families who agonize when they are injured, missing or imprisoned … for support services personnel – we pray in gratitude for all their sacrifices.