Since I first went on the Battlefields Pilgrimage in 2010, Remembrance Sunday has never been the same. During the silence we observed before Mass this morning, I saw in my mind’s eye the row upon row of gravestones at Tyne Cot, and the names of the “missing dead” engraved at Thiepval and on the Menin Gate. The Pilgrimage changed me, as it changes our students.
The readings this morning were about sacrifice, too. The old woman, who puts two ha’pennies in the collection box, and the widow who gives her last handful of flour to make a “scone” for the prophet Elijah.
Just as learning really only takes place “at the limit” – where we have to make sense of something just beyond our current understanding, it’s “at the limit” that true giving, true sacrifice, takes place.
Many of us do not miss the odd pound coin that we put in a collecting bag, or even the odd fiver. We give from our surplus. But the two women who are offered us as models today give “at the limit”. They give from what they need.
Often, the giving that affects us in school most is the gift of time. It is so precious, and we need every minute to plan that lesson, or answer that email. Spending ten minutes with someone who needs us can feel like a real sacrifice.
But our readings tell us three things about that sacrifice,
First, that God sees it, as our Lord saw the sacrifice of the old woman at the temple. He sees is, as Helen said to us recently, not because he is spying on us, but because he loves us so much he can’t take his eyes off us.
Secondly, he will resource us in honour of our sacrifice. As with the widow, he will not let us go hungry. He will bless our sacrifice of time or money.
And lastly, if we give “at the limit”, then we are developing in ourselves the character of God – the one who gave the most precious thing he had, his only Son, for our sake. That Son, who, as eternal high priest, lives for ever to take our sacrifices – on the altar or in or lives – into the eternal Temple in heaven.
May God bless our service and sacrifice this week, and may the souls of the faithful, through the mercy of God, rest in peace, and rise in glory.