Thanks Givers 11-11-2018

Two years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a remarkable woman was born in New York City. Her name was Elizabeth Bayley.
At the age of 20 she married a businessman named William Seton. Neither she nor William was Catholic. In time the couple had five children.
Then tragedy struck: William contracted tuberculosis.
William moved his family to Italy, hoping that the climate would help him. But his illness was terminal. He died a few years later.
With the help of a generous Italian family, the Setons moved back to the United States. The goodness of that Italian family led the young widow to investigate the Catholic Church. Two years later she became a Catholic.
Elizabeth’s relatives and friends were shocked. They virtually disowned her, and she was forced to get a teaching job to support her five children. To make a long story short, when the children came of age, Elizabeth became religious and founded the American branch of the Sisters of Charity. It was this order that pioneered the great Catholic school system in America.
Elizabeth once told a friend, “I’d like to retire from the turmoil of the world and lead a simple life of prayer, but God wants me to do something else, and I must always choose God’s will over my own.”
Elizabeth died at the age of 46. In her lifetime she wasn’t a mystic. She wasn’t a martyr. She was simply a widow who gave what she had to God. She was simply a single parent who turned a tremendous tragedy in her life – the loss of her husband and the rejection of her family – into a spectacular gift to God and to the Church.
How fitting it was, then, that in 1975 Elizabeth Seton was canonized the first American-born saint.
The story of this generous widow fits in beautifully with today’s Scripture readings. For two of those readings are also about generous widows.
The first reading concerns a widow who shared with the prophet Elijah all the food she had to live on. The gospel reading concerns a widow who gave to the Temple of Jerusalem all the money she had to live on.
Like Elizabeth Seton, each of these two widows gave with the same generous heart. Each had a perfectly legitimate reason to excuse herself from giving, but each refused to exercise that excuse.
Like Elizabeth Seton, each knew that the important thing was not what she had to give but the love with which she gave it.
Each knew that what counted in God’s eyes is not the size of the gift but the size of the giver’s heart.
Someone once said that there are three kinds of givers: grudge givers, duty givers, and thanks givers.
Grudge givers say, “I hate to give.” Duty givers say, “I ought to give.” Thanks givers say, “I want to give.”
In other words grudge givers give reluctantly and with a certain feeling of resentment.
Duty givers give reluctantly too, but with a certain feeling of obligation.
Thanks givers, on the other hand, give from the heart, without any feeling of resentment or obligation. The three widows are beautiful examples of thanks givers.
They gave under no pressure.
They gave under no obligation.
They gave from the heart.
The stories of the three widows invite us to ask ourselves how we give.
Do we give grudgingly because we have to – because we will be embarrassed or thought less of it if we don’t give?
Do we give dutifully because we feel obligated or required to do so?
Or do we give thankfully because our love and our faith tell us to give – just as the love and the faith of the widows told them to give?
Listen with me –
Let’s close with a brief meditation on God’s own generosity in giving to us:
We ask for a flower, and God gives us a bouquet.
We ask for leaf, and God gives us a tree.
We ask for a drop of water, and god gives us and ocean.
We ask for a grain of sand, and god gives us a beach.

We ask for a blade of wheat, and God gives us a wheat field.
We ask for something to eat, and we are given God’s own Life.
With God what counts the most – is not the size of the gift, but the size of the giver’s heart.


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