1 Kgs 17: 10-16

So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.” As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.”

Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.” She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Being Generous

Give until it hurts.

I don’t know about you, but that’s not my typical mode of generosity. I prefer to give from my excess. If I have an extra dollar in my pocket, I’m happy to share that with someone on the street. If I have an extra hour to spare, I can do a favor for a friend. I guess that makes me like the rich people in the Gospel we hear at today’s Mass, who give their donations to the temple treasury (Mk 12:38-44). They all contributed from their surplus wealth.

But they aren’t the ones who catch Jesus’s eye. It’s the poor widow who put in two small coins worth a few cents. She’s the one who put in more than all the others, according to Jesus. She contributed all that she had. She gave until it hurt.

We can see the same dynamic in the first reading. A widow and her son are down to their last handful of flour and a little bit of oil. But the widow prepares a little cake for the prophet Elijah because he asked for it. She gave until it hurt.

The generosity that we are called to is not simply giving from our excess. We’re called to give from the heart. To give extravagantly. To give until it hurts. This is not an easy lesson to stomach. It’s uncomfortable. It should be.

Whether it’s our financial contributions or volunteering our time, just how generously do we give? The truth is, it should involve some sacrifice, some enjoyment foregone for the sake of the gift. Maybe giving up a fancy dinner out. Or giving up a morning of sleeping in. It might not be easy, but that’s not the point.

But just like the pain of a dentist visit or a trip to the confessional, we just might find the grace and goodness that come after the sacrifice are actually worth more than the pain. So, at the very least, give it a try. Give beyond your excess. Give lavishly. Give until it hurts.

—Fr. Brian Strassburger, SJ, is a member of the Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province. He was ordained this summer and is helping to meet pastoral needs in the Rio Grande Valley on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Prayer

Love Always Hurts

It is not enough for us to say, “I love God.”
But I also have to love my neighbor.
St. John says that you are a liar
if you say you love God and you don’t love your neighbor.
How can you love God whom you do not see,
if you do not love your neighbor whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live?
And so it is very important for us to realize that love, to be true, has to hurt.
I must be willing to give whatever it takes not to harm other people
and, in fact, to do good to them.
This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts.
Otherwise, there is no true love in me
and I bring injustice, not peace, to those around me.

It hurt Jesus to love us.
We have been created in his image for greater things,
to love and to be loved.
We must “put on Christ,” as Scripture tells us.
And so we have been created to love as he loves us.
Jesus makes himself the hungry one,
the naked one,
the homeless one,
the unwanted one,
and he says, “You did it to me.”
On the last day he will say to those on his right,
“whatever you did to the least of these, you did to me,”
and he will also say to those on his left,
“whatever you neglected to do for the least of these, you neglected to do it for me.”

When he was dying on the Cross, Jesus said, “I thirst.”
Jesus is thirsting for our love,
and this is the thirst for everyone, poor and rich alike.
We all thirst for the love of others,
that they go out of their way to avoid harming us and to do good to us.
This is the meaning of true love, to give until it hurts.

—Mother Teresa, Address to the National Prayer Breakfast, Washington D.C. 1994