Thirty-second Ordinary Sunday
Points to note
This Sunday’s reading actually comprise two sections, but I have taken up the option in the Missal to drop the first section. This will enable us to concentrate this Sunday’s message on something that is closer to the children. You may, however, wish to include the first section.
The story of the widow’s mite, though short, is a very powerful one. Very much like the two coins which contained everything the widow had, the whole of the attitude of a Christian can be conveyed in this story: whatever we do or give to God, give our all. The point is not just to give our excess, but to give our all. The widow could have held back one coin, and still could be praised for giving half of all she owned, but she did not.
The story examines our own attitudes. Jesus was not just contrasting the two coins of the widow with the many gifts of the rich, but also with us. The holding back of one coin is something we have always had to face from childhood. It is very much a story of each of our faith journey: from sharing of toys to sharing our life with God. There is much, therefore, we can discuss on this.
I have started the discussion for today with a joke. It is important that if we were to start any discussion with a story, we should try to return to it at the end of the discussion. I have provided an idea for doing just that.
Acclamation before the Gospel
Happy are the poor in spirit;
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The Lord be with you.
All: And also with you.
A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St Mark
(Mk 12: 41-44)
He sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting in money into the treasury, and many of the rich put in a great deal. A poor widow came and put in two small coins, the equivalent of a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “I tell you solemnly, this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury; for they had put in all the money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.”
This is the Gospel of the Lord.
Three men won money at the races. They all agreed that they should give some of the money to God but could not decide how much. The first said, “I will draw a circle in the sand and throw the money up in the air. Whatever money that fall outside the circle belong to God and whatever that fall inside the circle belong to me.” He did, collected his money and gave the rest to the poor. The second man said, I would do the same. I will draw a circle in the sand and throw the money up in the air. Whatever money that fall outside the circle belong to me and whatever that fall inside the circle belong to God.” He did, collected his money and gave the rest to the poor. The third man said, I would do the same. I will draw a circle in the sand and throw the money up in the air. Whatever money that go up to heaven belong to God and whatever that fall on the earth belong to me.”
Which of these three persons are you like? This isn’t meant to be a serious question but to lead the children to talk about how much they would give to God if they have enough money. Begin by discussing amounts: one million? two? You can then lead on to discuss fractions: half? quarter?
For younger children who may not yet fully appreciate the idea of money, we could discuss the idea of possessions: toys, cookies, favourite books. Young children are by nature sharers. But we are talking about more than sharing here; we are talking about giving, and never seeing what they gave away again. So, will they give a cookie, or a toy no longer needed or some outgrown clothes? But what if it is their last cookie, the teddy they had from baby, or their favourite dress?
Explain that in the story (the Gospel story, not the joke), the widow gave everything she had. And Jesus said that she has given more than anyone else because she gave everything. Explain that it is not the amount she gave that is important, it is that she gave everything.
When Jesus said that, did he only meant only money gifts? Explain that we can also give everything when we do things as well. Discuss examples: when Mom ask us to help, we do it wholeheartedly; when someone wants to talk to us when he or she is sad, we listen intently and not let our eyes wander everywhere; when a teacher teaches, we pay full attention; when we pray or say thank you, we really mean what we say. Anyone else have any other examples?
Sometimes, we fall short. We may be selfish and perhaps, refused to share what we have. We may not pay attention when listening to a teacher or to someone we don’t like. Sometimes, we bargain or we make compromises. We tell Mom that we will help her for half an hour, which we say is better than nothing. They are not alone: all of us are guilty of it. But the widow gave two coins. She did not give one and say that was good enough. She gave two coins; she gave everything she had.
Ultimately, some people give their all: they give their lives. There are, of course, people like Jesus and St Maximilian Kolbe. There are also more ordinary people like the priests and sisters, who gave up their lives to serve God. Explain that the priests took a vow of poverty and they do not own anything of themselves. The Church owns everything.
Return to the joke at the beginning of this discussion. Perhaps, there should be a fourth way: I will draw a circle in the sand and throw the money up in the air. Whatever money that goes up to heaven belong to me and whatever that fall on the earth belong to God.