Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Ss. Domenico e Sisto, Roma
Anyone who lives in Rome understands what it means to take a risk. If the careening taxis don't mow you down at a crosswalk, the uneven cobblestones will break your ankles. If the herds of tourists on the 64 bus don't crush you to death, the summer heat will suck the life out of you. We all take risks just by walking out the door every morning. We calculate the costs of leaving home against the benefits of staying in bed, weighing all the options, teasing out the advantages, appraising the disadvantages, and then we choose. Most of the time, we get the equations right and manage to live another day. If this sort of cost/benefit analysis works for mere survival, can we use it in making choices about how we live our lives in Christ? That is, when it comes to deciding whether or not and to what degree we will follow after Christ, can we coolly, logically process all the available evidence before making a choice? Jesus' tale of the widow's mite says, no, we can't. We're all in or not at all.
Living with Christ is not a contest of minimizing risks, planning strategies, or prudently calculating cost/benefit. Living with Christ is a recklessly generous, open-handed, open-hearted, full-tilt run; a sanctifying contest of perseverance and strength, a contest played with everything you've got and all that you are. If we pick and choose which portions of ourselves we will and won't give to Christ, then we cannot claim a prize even if we finish the race. If all that you are, if all of who you are didn't compete, then who exactly crossed the finish line? The widow knows who she is—a child of God the Father. She sacrifices her entire livelihood; she gives wholly, fully everything she has: two mites, two small coins. The wealthy gave of their surplus, what was left over after the cost/benefit calculations had been made. She gave out of her poverty, out of what she didn't have to give. Of her sacrifice, Jesus says, “. . .this poor widow put in more than all the rest.” The “more” that she gives is not calculable by weight or by an exchange value. How can trust in God be measured? How do we weigh hope? By giving all that she has and all that she is, the widow throws herself recklessly—ignorant of risk, despite the threat of failure—she throws herself into the hands of God and trusts Him to provide.
The moment you and I are equal to this sacrifice, we are well and fully committed to living our lives following after Christ. We are either all in or not at all. Christ himself did nothing less for us.
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