Loving and Giving
Loving and Giving

Loving and Giving

Thirty-Second Sunday of the Year. Fr Lawrence Lew encourages us to offer everything to God without fear.

In the Offertory of the Mass, the priest says a prayer as he offers bread at the altar which begins like this: “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you”. When this particular translation of the prayer was introduced a decade ago, the addition of the phrase “we have received” was particularly striking. For the previous translation had merely said that it was thanks to God’s goodness that we offered him this bread, and so it could have been inferred that this referred to the very act of offering in itself; it’s thanks to God that we can be here at the altar doing this good work. However, the revised translation made explicit the notion that the bread that we brought to the altar, the bread that the priest had received from the hands of his parishioners at the Offertory, the bread that was raised up in offering to God had, in fact, first of all been received from God as a gift.

And this was the point: that all we have, and indeed, all that we are, we owe to the good giving of our Creator God. Nothing, therefore, is truly our own, nothing is our possession, not even life itself, for we have received all from the providence and merciful hand of God (cf 1 Cor 4:7). God, therefore, is our provider and we are invited to trust in his provision of our most fundamental needs as the widow of Sidon does.

Hence a prayer (sometimes heard in funerals) attributed to Bede Jarrett OP says: “We seem to give them back to you, O God, who gave them first to us… What you give, you take not away, for what is yours is ours also if we are yours.” So also in the Mass, that which is offered back to God is not taken away, but becomes that which is given to us in order to make us become more truly God’s own. So too with our own lives, the gifts that we have freely received from God, including life itself, we are thus invited in faith to entrust to God; to give from what we have, even the little that is of necessity, knowing in faith that God will not leave us bereft but rather he will give us more than we dare dream of. For God who has given us his own self in the person of Jesus Christ, particularly in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, will “reward with salvation those who are waiting for him” (Heb 9:28). This is to say that God will save all those who trust in his providence, who wait expectantly for God’s salvation to be manifest in their flesh, in their own lives.

The poor widow in the Gospel, therefore, gives all she has freely to God, knowing that it is through God’s goodness that she has received the mite that she offers him. So, she now gives it back to God and in doing so entrusts herself to God’s goodness, God’s providence, God’s mercy. Jesus, as always, praises such faith, and he holds out for our edification and admiration once again the faith of a poor woman, a widow, the kind of person who is often overlooked in the world. Christ thus draws our attention to that which ultimately matters because it endures – not the material but the spiritual. For while human beings look on the monetary value of the offering, God looks on the heart, on the intention and the relational significance of the offering. So the offering of even one’s livelihood is a loving oblation of oneself to God, an entrustment of oneself to God’s loving care, and it is this giving of oneself to God’s loving mercy that Christ wishes to teach us in today’s Gospel.

For God has first loved us, and he has given himself and he continues to give us his gifts, indeed, all that we have, so that we might recognise how much we are loved, so that we can dare to love God in return. As St Thomas Aquinas says: “nothing can provoke love more than to know that one is loved.” So, in truly recognising that through God’s goodness we have received all that we have to offer back to him, so shall we know God’s love, God’s providence, and God’s unfailing generosity towards us. With such faith in the goodness of the Lord God of all creation, we can offer to him acts of generosity and courage and sacrificial charity, like the widows of today’s readings, and indeed, like Christ himself. Thus shall we become more truly God’s and so shall his gifts of grace and virtue become more truly our own. For “Not as the world gives, do you give, O Lover of souls: what you give, you take not away, for what is yours is ours also if we are yours.”

Readings: 1 Kings 17:10-16 | Hebrews 9:24-28| Mark 12:38-44

Fr Lawrence Lew is Prior and Parish Priest at Our Lady of the Rosary and St Dominic, London; he is the Editor of the Province's magazine 'The Dominicans' and Co-ordinator of the Province's Internet Apostolate. He is also the Dominican Order's Promoter General for the Holy Rosary.

Comments (2)

  • Fr Maurice

    Thanks Fr Lawrence, your reflection spiritually up lifting and enriching. Keep it up and remain blessed

  • Martin Keady

    Thank you for the huge effort you put into writing your homilies every week.I read them and they encourage me to try harder to be a better kinder person-to see Christ in everyone I meet and to continually attempt to do be a better Christian.Your homilies are brilliant.Thank you.


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