Forming a Christian conscience means exposing it to the hard sayings of Jesus, which call for a self-emptying commitment to the “whole law”: love of God and love of all other human beings. Jesus used as an example of this love a widow who gave her last two coins to support the temple. He didn’t call his disciples’ attention to this woman just so that they would admire her; he was making a point about the wealthy people who also contributed to the temple but whose contributions came from their excess.
Jesus couched this lesson in terms of the very poor and the very rich. Most people, falling into neither category, take no risk by assenting to Jesus’ words: “They have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had.” Yet those who are materially secure and comfortable but not wealthy might respond differently if they looked at these words from another angle. Jesus didn’t just disapprove of the fact that the wealthy gave less than they could have. He also pointed out that the poor woman gave everything she had, and he approved. If Jesus thought it was reasonable for that woman to give away all she had, then he expected the rest of us to act with a similar generosity.
Bishops and priests who continue the ministry of Jesus should teach that same lesson. The parish is a place to arouse consciences, inspire conversion, prompt action. It is a...
Rev. Brian McCormick is the founder and chief executive officer of Martin House Foundation, whose programs provide housing, education, job training, youth activities, and transitional housing for the homeless.