A famous pediatric cancer doctor at a well-known children’s hospital in London was being given an award. He started the pediatric cancer research center, but he was also known for his kindness and compassion. He always spent time talking with the children, even playing little games. He was always available to the families.
When asked what made him the kind of doctor he was, he said it all started during the second world war, and with an American soldier. He said, “My parents were killed in the bombings in London, and I was put in an orphanage. Christmas was very bleak; I was only about six years old.
“On Christmas day there was a knock on the door. It was two American soldiers; their jeep had broken down. I was just a little fellow alone in the corner, and one of the soldiers came over and sat next to me. He put his hands in his coat and pulled out some chewing gum. He got me talking and asked me about myself. He let me talk on and on, and he just listened. Before the soldiers left, he picked me up and spun me around until I could not stop laughing. He came back several times, bringing bags of apples, or eggs or candy. Once he brought me a toy truck. Then the soldiers left for the invasion of Europe. I was adopted by a wonderful family, but I never forgot that young soldier, who was so kind to a little orphan.”
You see, sometimes, it is the little things that make a difference, like chewing gum and just being picked up. Rather like the two women we read about in today’s scriptures. Neither of these two widows actually gave very much, but they gave all they had: a small cup of water, a little cake, and two small coins worth about a cent. Both of these women will be remembered until the end of time.
Many of us assume that the more we do for God, the better Christians we are. Moreover, we often measure our religious-ness by how much we work for the Church, how much we give, how many prayers we say, or how many masses we attend. For some people, when it comes to God, church, and our religion, more is better. And that is not bad in itself.
But what happens when we are not able to do any of these things? Do we then assume that we are worthless? I am thinking of the elderly and the sick, who often feel bad because they can no longer get out to attend mass. Or, after a lifetime of supporting the Church, are upset because they no longer give as much as they used to.
In our Gospel, Jesus saves us from the false way of evaluating ourselves. The widow was praised, not for what she gave, but for who she was: a woman of faith, full of trust, and totally reliant on God. And so whether we are able to do a little, or lot, whether we are able to give a little or give in abundance, it is who we become in the doing and in the giving that is the greater gift that God desires. It is not the gift that is important to God, as much as the giver.
Jesus holds up these two humble women for us to emulate and admire. Keep in mind the people Jesus admired, and what they did. I recall that He admired a good Samaritan who went out of his way to help a wounded man. Also the forgiving father in the story of the prodigal son. The master who paid his servant a generous wage. The Roman Centurion who asked Jesus to cure his slave. Zacchaeus, the tax collector, who gave away half of his belonging. And today, two widows who gave all they had
Do we see a pattern in the kind of people the Lord chose as His heroes? They gave what they could, they cared for others, and they had faith. May God give us the wisdom to do the same.