Luke’s gospel today focuses on giving: the tiny offering of the impoverished widow and those easy donations of the well-to-do. In observing these opposites, we are drawn to examine the nature of giving: to whom do we give, what do we give, how do we give and, significantly, why do we give?
Today’s Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary also highlights Anne and Joachim’s, Mary’s parents’, gratitude for God’s gift of her birth. In the delight of their late parenthood, they consecrate her life to the Lord.
Giving is often characterised by sacrifice: the widow’s generosity in her impoverishment, Mary’s dedication of her life to God, the suffering and death of Jesus for all of us. And whilst these are the yardsticks against which we might judge our own giving, that’s not to say that giving with little or no sacrifice is a bad thing. Rather, selfless giving in celebration and happiness is an affirmation of our humanity and ultimately of our Faith.
Most of our giving is not material, but a function of our personal relationships: of concern, compassion, empathy, joy, of love – the gift of ourselves. There is no hint of sacrifice in these gifts; instead, a sense of engagement, of identification with others – with a community, with the Body of Christ.
So, when we donate to a cause, purchase a gift for a friend or a loved one, support a worthy organisation, what are we doing as we reach for our last few coins or the well-buffered credit card? Are we acting out of a sense of obligation or habit, or to make ourselves feel good? Or is it to express our love, compassion, gratitude, or joy and appreciation of others?
With or without sacrifice, our giving defines both who we are and our relationships with God.
Phil Page is a member of the St Joseph’s Hobart Parish