Monday, November 22, 2010

"Small is Beautiful" in Today's Gospel and in Today's World

"When Jesus looked up he saw some wealthy people
 putting their offerings into the treasury 
and 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.” (Luke, 21:1-4)

In his recent book, "Eaarth", Bill McKibbon, a "shoot-from-the-hip", "no-holds-barred" expert on the current, precarious state-of-affairs of our environment, tells the story of the Club of Rome, a group of European industrialists and scientists who commissioned a team of experts back in the 1960's to do an "actuarial" study (which derives precise prognostications about future possibilities in various measurable areas of life based on trends, statistics, and other relevant information) on the likely scenario facing the environment if current economic trends held true (at this time the trend was toward unlimited growth). The results of the study, published in the best-selling book, Limits to Growth(1972) indicated that economic policies would push the environment to a dangerous tipping point that would be irreparable and irreversible. According to McKibbon, these prognostications have largely been proved correct through the affects of climate change that the world is already experiencing.

Two years after this watershed book was published, another book along similar lines became a best-seller entitled, Small is Beautiful. As the title suggests, the book made a compelling case for the need to "return to the basics" of life and to "downsize" our bloated ideas about economics, consumerism, and what truly constitutes the "good life." Today's Gospel from Mass about the widow who gave two small coins and received Jesus' praise is along the same lines of this philosophy.

With the Kingdom of God as his filter for seeing the world and all people, Jesus places before us in this incident what constitutes true greatness and magnificence in the eyes of God. No doubt the widow, in the smallness of her social stature and donation to the temple treasury, was probably largely overlooked by nearly everyone around her. Nevertheless, Jesus declares with a tinge of high irony, no doubt, that it is precisely the widow's smallness that makes for greatness in God's Kingdom. Her smallness isn't constituted so much by her social stature nor donation, but in the fact that she gives from the depths of her humility the totality of who she is to God. She recognizes her "littleness" in the sight of God and isn't afraid to therefore give everything because she realizes God will be faithful in his reception of her gift and in returning far more than she ever could have expected.

Small is indeed beautiful! We needn't be afraid, therefore, to recognize our own, true stature before God and to entrust ourselves completely to the One who will always receive our gift graciously and multiply it far beyond our wildest dreams! When we leave it up to God to make greatness out of littleness, we are free to live without having to put on airs or gloss: free to live and love as children of God and brothers and sisters to one another and every creature. Pat, TOR