Heroic Generosity


CNBC airs a television series entitled “American Greed.” It highlights the dark path to wealth that some people take: credit card scams, identity theft, and Ponzi schemes among others. It’s tragic that some, in pursuit of wealth, think nothing of destroying peoples’ lives in the process.

Christians, on the contrary, are called to be people of heroic generosity. In this Sunday’s readings we hear about two widows who model this type of generosity. In ancient Israel widows were a special class in society and society was required to care for them. They were not expected to give a lot because they did not have a lot; and yet in these readings we see them giving generously.

In the first reading from the Book of Kings, the widow gave food to a hungry Elijah, trusting in God’s promise through Elijah that “[her] jar of flour shall not go empty, nor [her] jug of oil run dry, until the day when the Lord sends rain upon the earth.” She gave, even though she was afraid of running out of food. Even though she was in need, she cared for another who was in need; and the Lord miraculously took care of her, allowing her to feed her family until the famine ended. In the Gospel, Jesus contrasts those who gave to the treasury out of their surplus wealth, to the poor widow who gave all she had, two coins.

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta used to ask the challenging question, “Do we give until it hurts?” In other words, do we, like these widows, give even when we feel it might hurt us, even when we feel that we don’t have enough to give? The lesson is clear: the Lord invites each of us to be heroically generous and to trust that he will provide for us.

This call to heroic generosity is not just about giving monetarily (our treasure). It is a call to be generous with our time and talent as well. Yes, we should be generous with our money so as to help our parishes and other charities; but we should also give generously of our time to those who need us and we should be generous with our talents to strengthen our parish and local communities.

Ultimately, the Lord calls us to make a sincere gift ourselves each and every day. The Christian is called to be an icon of Christ’s sacrificial love, a love that led him to the Cross, a love that led him to empty himself completely for our salvation. So this week, let’s prayerfully reflect: am I being comfortably generous or am I being heroically generous with my time, talent and treasure? More pointedly, does my generosity reflect Christ’s sacrificial love?

Father Michael Najim is Spiritual Director of Our Lady of Providence Seminary, Providence, as well as Catholic Chaplain at LaSalle Academy, Providence.