Little - but Unique and Priceless
there was an unusual news story about an Australian woman who won a
swimming race at the age of 101. It was extraordinary in many ways.
She competed in a special race category: for those over 100! There being
no other competitor, she had to win. It did not matter whether it took
her five minutes or 50 hours she would still be in the Guinness Book
of Records. The attraction of the story was in her uniqueness, in her
being 101 and in her great sporting spirit. It was in her gameness to
do what she could. It was in the fact that she did it at all, and not
in how well she did it. This is a big shift of paradigm from our typical
sports stories. Ultimately, today, your spirit does not matter. What
matters is whether you made it across the line first. There's where
the laurels and the money are!
of us are also like the old woman. Each of us are unique before God.
Each of us has a unique faith history and a unique gift that only we
can offer to the world. Even if we wanted to, we could not compete because
only we can offer what we are and have. When we realize this truth we
can begin to enjoy our own lives without comparing ourselves with others
or competing with them.
today's Gospel we have a similar story about a unique woman and a reversing
of the usual paradigm. A rich man makes a big offering at the temple.
Let us say he gave $ 5,000, a very generous offering. The widow comes
in and drops two 25 cent coins in the box. The plonk, plonk into the
box adds up to only 50 cents. Now who gave the most? Of course, in the
world's way of reckoning, the rich man did. But Jesus had a different
way of seeing things. The rich man actually had fifty million in the
bank so what he gave was only .001% of what he owned. On the other hand,
the widow only owned 50 centavos, this was her total monetary worth,
and so she gave 100% or 10,000 times more than the rich man!
story of the widow's mite has become very important for me in recent
years. For 17 years now I have been trying to meditate according to
the way taught by the Benedictine, John Main (1926-1982). According
to him this is how to meditate: "You just sit still and upright.
Close your eyes lightly. Sit relaxed but alert. Silently, interiorly
begin to say a single word. We recommend the prayer-phrase 'MARANATHA.'
Recite it as four syllables of equal length. Listen to it as you say
it gently but continuously. Do not think or imagine anything - spiritual
or otherwise. Thoughts and images will likely come, but let them pass.
Just keep returning your attention - with humility. If thoughts and
images come, these are distractions at the time of meditation, so keep
to simply saying the word. Meditate each morning and evening for between
20 and 30 minutes."
After meditating for 17 years, I still find that when I try to be still, my mind is like a tree inhabited by monkeys that are jumping about and chirping in their own language. I often find myself asking if I am wasting my time in this kind of prayer. The story of the widow gives me the courage to continue. When I sit with this story I realise that I too want to be like the rich man who gave the generous offering in the temple. I want to be able to internally admire myself for my wonderful prayer performance. But the Lord loves me too much to let this happen. He knows that, as St. John of the Cross says, "When we think that we are doing well ourselves and doing good for others, we have to be careful when we go before the Lord that we are not there to glorify ourselves rather than to glorify God." I generally go to meditation with great plans to do it properly this time. However, I find out that I spend most of my time amongst the monkeys. My natural tendency is to be disgusted with myself and maybe to even give up meditation. But when I remember the story of the widow's mite, and now the story of the Australian 101 year-old woman swimming champion, I realize that what the Lord wants of me is only what I can offer. If my unique offering of 30 minutes of distraction is okay with him, why should it not also be okay with me? It is little indeed, but if is the best that I can offer right now, it is unique before the Lord and that makes it priceless.
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