Then I looked, and there was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion! And with him were one hundred forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder; the voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, and they sing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins; these follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They have been redeemed from humankind as first fruits for God and the Lamb, and in their mouth no lie was found; they are blameless.
He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on."
To draw near to God we are asked for unconditional love and devotion. The ultimate level of commitment is brought home to us during the last week of the Church year as we read from the Book of Revelation. The martyrs have died as everyone must, have even faced martyrdom, and are now numbered among the 144,000 elect who follow the Lamb who had been slain. The Greek text calls them "virgins," in the sense of people totally committed to the one they love, like a bride for her groom on the day, their wedding.
The trials of life are meant to purify the person of faith. Even sins are an opportunity to trust ourselves less and to rely more fully on God in the future. At the end, we will be among the numberless throng who enter the marriage feast, for the full and final experience of the love of God. At times this may be an inspiration to go the extra mile and give our shirt as well as our cloak (Mt 5:40-42).
In the gospel we have the moving story of the widow who drops two copper coins into the treasury. Jesus declares that by giving what she could not afford, what she gave was worth more than the wealthiest donation. We too must be ready as and when the spirit inspires us to give until it hurts, like Jesus who gave himself totally on the cross for us. Only in the end will each of us know the real value of what we seek to give, as we make our way through life.
The widow who gives all she had to live on to the temple treasury could be understood as an image of Jesus who went on to give all he had, his life, for others. Although she gave very little in monetary terms, her giving was more generous than the larger contributions of others, because she gave her all. She reminds us that generosity is not always easy to measure. Those who appear to be giving little may, in reality, be more generous than those who appear to be giving a lot. At the end of the day, it is really only the Lord who can measure generosity, because he alone knows what we are capable of giving. The Lord's assessment of generosity will often be very different to our assessment. Whereas we tend to look at what is visible, the Lord looks deeper; he looks at the heart. The widow would not have made much of a visible impression on those who saw her, but she made a big impression on Jesus, so much so that he pointed her out to his disciples. The gospel reminds us that even when we appear to have very little to offer, our efforts to give from that little will mean a great deal to the Lord.