Mindful in faith and love, in wonder and thanksgiving, of our own being as gift we are to be moved to a reciprocal gift of self to others. Moreover, giving to others must hold as its pattern gift’s proper measure, which is totality. The total gift of one’s own being from nothingness calls for a reciprocal gift of all of oneself. Jesus himself alludes to this logic when responding to a scribe’s question about which was the first of all the commandments, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”
We can get a better grasp of this total reciprocal gift of self, by looking at its archetype, which is the “vow”. When a man and a woman exchange vows at their wedding or a religious makes vows at his or her profession or a priest at his ordination, in each case it is a gift of all of oneself. It is important to recognize that this giving of self is made as a response in love and thanksgiving to the mystery of being given to oneself, it is not a claim to have the capacity to spend the rest of one’s life in a state of unremitting total self-gift. What the vow does do is gather up all that has gone before and all that is to follow in a person’s life into a unity with God; so that every other giving of oneself is now an expression of this totality; which is meant to unfold in the ordinary living out of our lives through our daily attempts to give ourselves to others.
The widow’s contribution of her two small coins is her attempt to live from within the totality of self-gift. It is her way of abiding as a traveler in the land of the gift, which is the realm of God. He is her dwelling place, where taking risks in love opens up pathways of never-ending newness and discovery, he is her joy, her place of the experience of fullness and peace, her home; and resting there in union with him as the mystery of the divine source of life, her eternal father, means reciprocating in her own way the totality of the gift that she has received, confident that as for the widow of Zarephath, “The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the Lord sends rain upon the earth."
What gives Jesus such joy, is that in her action, he sees a unity with his own action as only-begotten Son, making a total gift of self to the Father through taking on our flesh, and now moving toward his suffering and death in order to bring back to the Father all those the Father has given him. He summons his disciples and points her out in the hope that they too will know this union with him. May he enlighten us and strengthen us that we too may dwell with him, united with him in the offering of self, without limit, calculation or reserve.
Photograph by Brother Brian. Reflection by Father Timothy.