I’ve enjoyed watching poker on TV from time to time. Haven’t played it much myself; losing money is against my religion. The psychological drama of the game is interesting: seeing who’s bluffing and who has the best hand, who’s miscalculated his opponents and who gets the right read on them. The greatest drama is when someone goes all in, pushes all their chips to the center of the table. Either they’re going to multiply what they have or they’re going broke. All except one person at tournament poker games will go all and lose in except one: the person who wins. But the only way to win is to be willing to go All In; without total commitment, success doesn’t happen.
The situation on today’s Gospel isn’t too far away from today. Jesus and his disciples are watching people contribute to the Temple treasury: religious groups haven’t changed too much since then. There are many rich people who are shelling out big bucks, partly to impress people since this is done in the open where everyone can see. Giving was part of Judaism, something you were called to do if God blessed you and the entire community was charged with taking care of the Temple and the poor. That was a big role of the Temple: caring for the poor. The widow has no income, she is at the mercy of passers by to make the few coins she gets and there is no safety net that will catch her and keep her alive. The Roman Empire could care less if any poor individual died or not: people who couldn’t work were useless and didn’t hit the radar. She may have had children who were responsible for her, but if she did she wouldn’t be out in public alone. Childless women were seen as being cursed by God. Yet she gives what little she has out of love, and Jesus sees this. Her gift from the heart is the most complete, the most sincere, and shown as the model to imitate.
We’re called to help people out of our surplus: there is no reason to hoard or keep things others could use. It’s a way we’re called to take responsibility for each other than goes beyond whoever wins elections or what governments will or will not do. However, true Charity calls us to give without thinking about what we have. It means laying down our lives, if need be, like many have given their lives in service of our country. It means seeing what’s needed and answering that need before considering what we want or need. Charity is something that comes from the heart and reaches out unconditionally. It’s not about an amount, it’s about responding in Love, responding to what God has given us.
In Christ, God gives us someone who pours out his Life completely, unconditionally for all of us. Christ has built a bridge to the Father we’ve needed, restores connections that are easily lost. Giving everything we have isn’t easy, and probably isn’t possible, but that doesn’t matter. As we look at our own hearts, as we look at our Charity, we’re called to give more than our excess; we’re called to give from our heart unconditionally, no matter what that amount might be. In Christ’s example, in Christ’s name, we are called to give so God’s work can be done. It’s about going All In for Christ for the sake of others.