21 November, Monday — We only have each other to rely on

Nov 21 – Memorial for the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today, we commemorate the presentation of the Blessed Virgin as a child in the Temple where, according to tradition, she was educated. The feast originated in the Orient probably about the seventh century, and is found in the constitution of Manuel Comnenus (1166) as a recognized festival. It was introduced into the Western Church in the 14th century, abolished by Pope Pius V, but re-established by Sixtus V in 1585. Its observance by the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as the day of their origin led to the devotion of Mater Admirabilis (Mother Most Admirable).

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Apo 14:1-5
Lk 21:1-4

“…but she from the little she had has put in all she had to live on.”

A few years ago, I read in our local newspaper about an elderly 83-year-old man, who lives in a one room rental flat. While busking, Mr. Lee would meet elderly needy folks and will open up his humble home – to 3 men over a period of a decade. He looked after his housemates, giving them a roof over their heads, took care of their needs. He fed them, clothed them and bathed them on the little savings he had of his own. Over a period of 4 years, two of his housemates passed away right in his home. For each housemate, he arranged the funeral, mourned and paid his respects to them. Mr Lee was not related to either of the men. “We are all in the same boat as each other – we have only each other to rely on,” said Mr Lee. He received an award that honours caregivers for their strength, resilience, and unwavering dedication in caring for their loved ones amid challenges. Yet in all humility and love, Mr Lee said, “I’d take care of them even if I didn’t get an award. This is just my way of caring for others.” Not only that, when the news of his deeds reached the media, offers of donations and help poured in. Yet, he politely declined every one of them, asking instead that donors help those less fortunate than he is.

This story is so humbling. A man with so little, yet not only was he willing to share with others, he went further by looking after his fellow brothers as though they were his own kin. This man, in his poverty, has given much more than any rich man.

This story reminds me of today’s gospel reading — when Jesus noticed the poor widow’s contribution of two small copper coins. Compared to the rich person’s contribution, her gift was small. “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.” One person who offered assistance to Mr. Lee commented, “He gives so much with the little he has. I have so much but I give so little. It’s really inspiring.” Many comments came in after people heard of his story – “There is just no comparison with people who have more, but have done very much less and are not even aware that they have not done enough.” He is truly the modern day ‘widow’.

I feel so ashamed with myself and my own ‘poverty’. I am by no means a rich person, but I am not poor as well. I have my own hang ups – in that I always worry about my financial future (that’s another story for another time). My ‘poverty’ is that I fail to give like the widow. Yes, I have given to those who need, but I have given out of my abundance, just like the rich people in today’s gospel.

True generosity is not so much giving what I can easily spare as giving what I can’t easily do without. Pope Francis said: “Faced with the needs of others, we are called to deprive ourselves of essential things, not only the superfluous; we are called to give the necessary time, not only what remains extra; we are called to give immediately and unconditionally some of our talent, not after using it for our own purposes or our own group.”

Today, Jesus invites us to ask ourselves how God, who knows our hearts, looks at us and our efforts. The amount of what we do is not that important for God, for what matters is our generosity — what lies in our hearts.

Today, I ask God for an open heart, ready to give all as this poor widow of the Gospel.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: God, I am aware of how little I have to offer. However, may this not stop me from improving the situation of those who have even less. Give me a large and generous heart like that of the poor widow. To give not from my extras, but to share the little that I have. Lord, help us to be generous and share the many gifts you have bestowed on us. Help us to help those who cannot help themselves; teach us how to give and not count the cost.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for showing me through this widow, and the actions of this old man, Mr Lee, of what it is to be truly generous. Thank you Jesus, for times the generosity of others has helped me. Help me observe what is going on around me, to recognise and to appreciate even small actions of love and care given to me by others. Thank you, above all, for your unconditional love for me.

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