Tobit 12:1, 5-15, 20
My favourite movie is The Constant Gardner, starring Rachel Weisz and Ralph Fiennes. It tells the story of a woman who is passionate about exposing the endemic corruption of the pharmaceutical companies that test their drugs on the impoverished people of Kenya. In one scene, Tessa has just given birth to her baby, that did not survive. She lies in a hospital bed alongside an African woman whose baby did survive, but she, herself, is dying. Tessa does not dissolve into her own grief. Rather, she looks outside herself, takes the baby and feeds it her life-saving sustenance. She gives all that she has.
The widow in today’s Gospel does the same. She is not like the showy scribes, who command authority and assume respect, carefully giving alms so that others can see just how generous they are. The widow has prioritised God first and care for self last. In her poverty, she gives every last cent, revealing her strength of faith: God will provide.
As Tessa leaves the hospital, her husband, putting Tessa’s needs first, refuses to stop for the other woman’s family who are carrying the new-born baby home – a walk of over 40 miles. You can’t help everyone, he tells her. No, she answers, but we can help just this one.
As we move through this day, let us become aware of our motives. Are we giving only what we have in excess, or do we give all that we have? Will we ensure our own comfort, or can we step out of ourselves to provide for just this one? As Khalil Gibran’s Prophet poeticises, “It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”
Angela Marquis works as a primary school chaplain with WATAC (Women and the Australian Church) and the Hobart Passionists at St Joseph’s in Tasmania.