November 21, 2016
by Tom Prucell
Creighton University's Accounting Department
click here for photo and information about the writer

Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Lectionary: 503

Revelation 14:1-3, 4b-5
Psalms 24:1bc-2, 3-4ab, 5-6
Luke 21:1-4

Praying Ordinary Time

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer
Preparing for Advent
Praying Advent Home Page

Today is the feast of the Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, celebrated by both Catholic and Orthodox Churches.  I was curious about the name of the feast and the readings selected for today, since none of them contain anything about Mary.  So I searched a bit and found out that the basis for much of the teachings on Mary’s early life come not from the canonical four Gospels but from the Narrative of James.  Although the story of the Annunciation is told in Luke 1, the Presentation of Mary (when her parents Joachim and Anna are told that Anna, who had been thought to be barren, would soon give birth to a child) is known from the Protoevangelium of James.   So, now you know a little bit more about the background of the Mary narrative.

I have always been moved by the faith of the widow in Luke.  In the patriarchal society of 2,000 years ago, widows were generally on their own and, if low income or poor while married, not likely to have very pleasant lives once widowed.  My mother-in-law has been widowed for 8 years, but she has six children and dozens of grandchildren to support her, and she has a modest, but stable income.  It is hard to imagine what her life would be like without such support. 

I think I am somewhat generous, but I pale by comparison to Luke’s widow.  I have been so fortunate to know many selfless people – members of the religious communities of the Sisters of Charity of the BVM in Dubuque, the men of the Society of Jesus, and students who embark on year-long service commitments – who truly walk the talk of generosity by the way they live their lives.  I have interacted with people who care for the homeless, the addicted, the abused, who take jobs not for what they can personally gain but for the good that they can do.  But when I reflect on this woman, and her faith in offering all that she had, keeping nothing in reserve for herself, I am humbled and inspired.

As I hold those feelings of admiration in one hand, I consider the motivations of the wealthy people Jesus cites in Luke.  They give from their surplus, they calculate what they can afford to give, they do not jeopardize their own livelihood and lifestyle.  I find it instructive that Jesus does not say the gift of the wealthy is not generous, only that the widow had given more.  He does not criticize the wealthy, but rather extols the widow. 

During this past year in the U.S., and internationally, with the incredible increases in the number of refugees and displaced and materially poor people, there has been much rhetoric that is suggestive of selfishness rather than generosity, of protectionism rather than openness, of exclusion and rejection rather embracing and supporting.  I think this happens because we tend to focus on what we have (or don’t have, or think we have lost) in material items, especially in comparison to those more fortunate than us, rather than being like the widow and focusing on what we can do for others. 

Many of us at Creighton teach our students to do well and do good – to be prosperous in their personal and professional lives but to also give generously of their time and talent and treasure.  Luke’s widow today reminds us that doing good is not a calculus, but a sacrifice, not thoughtless, but a mindful action.  Jesus praises the widow because she gives from her need, not from her surplus.

And so my prayer today is for the generosity of spirit, of heart, of detachment, that the widow possessed, and to fight my innate tendency to be calculating, to be safe, to be concerned with my security, like the wealthy that Jesus observed.

Click on the link below to send an e-mail response
to the writer of this reflection.

Sharing this reflection with others by Email, on Facebook or Twitter:

Email this pageFacebookTwitter

Print Friendly

See all the Resources we offer on our Online Ministries Home Page

Daily Reflection Home

Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook