“Dear friends in Jesus, one day a man by the name of Joe went to a local monastery and said to the abbot, ‘Dear Abbot, I have everything I need in life except happiness. Also, I do not see any meaning or purpose to my life right now.’ The abbot thought for a while and said, ‘I will have Mary, my cook, talk to you for a while. She will tell you how she found meaning too and happiness in her own life and I’m sure that will help you a lot.’ So May was called in and she began telling Joe her story and this is what she said, ‘Three years into my marriage and my loving husband died of cancer. Two years later, my only son died in a car accident. I had nobody. I had nothing left. I could not eat, sleep or smile. There was a time I even considered suicide. Then one evening a little kitten followed me home from work. I felt pity for him and let him into my house because it was very cold outside that day. I gave him some milk and he licked the bowl clean. He purred and rubbed against my leg and for the first time in years I smiled. Then I began to think, if helping a little kitten could make me smile, what about if I think of helping other people that might make me happy. So the next day I baked some cookies and took them to a neighbor close by who was sick in bed and I felt so happy looking at him happy. Ever since I have been doing whatever I could to everyone that crossed my paths and today I do not think that there is anyone in the world who lives and sleeps better than I do. I found happiness by giving it to other people.’ When Mary finished telling her story tears rolled down Joe’s cheeks as he left the monastery and went home, thanking God for opening his eyes and for letting him know the secret to happiness.
Dear friends in Jesus, some of the happiest people on earth are those who are generous, those who reach out to other people in need. On the other hand, some of the most miserable people on Earth are those who are selfish. Indeed there is joy in giving and the selfish sad to say, never, never get to experience it. If we look at history, all the people we respect and honor today are those who have been generous, those who give up something or someone they loved for the sake of the other be it divine or human. On the same account, the most despicable people in history are those who have been selfish. Generosity, dear friends, not only makes us happy and memorable, but also heals us of our infirmities. Dr. Karl Meninger, the famous psychiatrist, once gave a lecture on mental health after which someone in the audience asked him a question, ‘What would you advise a person to do if he or she was on the brink of a nervous breakdown?’ To the astonishment of his audience he replied, ‘Lock up your house. Go across the highway. Find someone in need and do whatever you can to help that person. Dear friends in Jesus, generosity really heals us because in generosity we go out of ourselves and most often, most of our decisions if not all of them are selfishness related. One misconception most people have about generosity is that we should be rich to be generous, but the example of the poor widow in today’s Gospel tells us that we do not have to be rich to be generous and that all of us can be generous no matter what we have or do not have. A proverb I heard some time back makes this truth very clear when it says, ‘If you have much, give up your wealth. If you have little, give of yourself.’ One very important lesson about generosity is that it becomes more meaningful and meritorious when it is accompanied by something or some self sacrifice.
One night, a heavy rainfall stranded a newlywed couple on a remote country road. Unable to go any farther they came out of their car and walked toward a dimly lit farmhouse. When they reached the house, an elderly couple carrying a kerosene lamp met them at the door. Explaining their predicament the young man asked, ‘Could we spend the night with you? Any warm and dry spot should do in the house.’ ‘With pleasure my children.’ said the elderly couple. ‘We just happened to have a spare bedroom. Get your stuff in and in the meantime we will have the bedroom ready for you.’ When the young couple came back from their car, the elderly couple led them to the bedroom upstairs. The next morning, the newlyweds got up early and prepared to leaved without disturbing their hosts. They dressed quietly, put a hundred dollar bill on the dresser and tiptoed down the stairs. When they opened the door to the living room they were shocked by what they saw. The elderly couple were asleep on the floor. They had given the newlyweds their only bedroom. This heart warming story, dear friends, is a modern illustration of the poor widow in today’s Gospel. That couple found their happiness in their self-sacrificing generosity. Very often I wondered just to why and how Jesus went so far as giving himself to us on the cross and one day it dawned on me. It was because he found happiness, meaning, and purpose in his own life by generously giving himself to his father for our sake. Let us pray today that the widow in today’s Gospel inspires us to find happiness in life through generosity. Amen.”