By Father Christopher Kubat
When Jesus looked up, he saw some wealthy people putting their offerings into the treasury. Then, he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins. He said, “I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood” (Lk 21:1-4).
Recently, while reading this gospel passage, I thought of an encounter I had with a homeless man in search of food on a chilly evening. While walking through our lobby after office hours, I spied a homeless man peering through the window. I soon learned what he was looking for. He was hungry and was looking for something to eat.
After inviting him in, I found in our reach-in cooler a piece of plain-Jane pizza and what can be described as a fancy gourmet sandwich, nicely wrapped. I put these in a sack together with something to drink.
After saying a few prayers in our St. Joseph chapel he happily left. My parting comment was about having a delicious fancy sandwich to consume. His response was immediate, “I will give this to someone else needier than myself and I will eat the pizza!”
I believe he was more joyful at the prospect of giving the fancy sandwich to someone else than of having something to eat.
In one of St. Leo the Great’s sermons he said, “Now there are many kinds of wealth and a variety of grounds for rejoicing; every man’s treasure is that which he desires.” He goes on, “With the help of God’s grace, even earthly possessions are transformed into heavenly blessings.” And commenting on those who help the poor and needy, he says, “They have properly placed those riches where their heart is; it is a most blessed thing to work to increase such riches rather than to fear that they may pass away.”
In other words, he is saying that those who help the poor and needy are amassing wealth in heaven. As for the man described above, even in his poverty, he was amassing wealth in heaven.
Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Lk 6:19-21).
During this Advent season, during which we prepare for the spiritual coming of the Christ Child into our hearts at Christmas, let us meditate on the poverty the Son of God experienced as he entered time as a helpless baby. May this remind us of the powerful nature of the triad of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
Also during this season of Advent, let us never forget the words Jesus uttered as an adult, “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). My prayer is for you to have a blessed and holy Advent in preparation for Christmas. Infant Jesus of Prague, have mercy on us!