In the short gospel today we see Jesus watching as people put money into the temple treasury, rich and poor alike. He then says of the poverty stricken widow. ‘I tell you truly, this poor widow has put in more than any of them; for these have all contributed money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in all she had to live on.’
Pope Benedict XVI made a distinction between what is given in justice and what is given in charity. Fr. Sylvester Flynn points out: “Whatever we have in surplus really belongs to the poor, because they have a human right to share in the world’s resources. So, giving from what is surplus is a matter of justice. It is giving back to the poor what is really their right. Charity builds on justice and goes beyond it. Justice gives to the poor what is theirs by right: charity gives what is mine.”
I read that the UK government is set to renege on its commitment to spending 0.7% of gross national income on foreign aid. This could not come at a worse time for the world’s poorest countries and people. The World Bank estimates that the Covid-19 pandemic will push an extra 88-115 million people into extreme poverty this year alone, rolling back years of progress that UK aid has helped contribute to. While there is room for debate about the best way to set aid budgets, there are no grounds for breaking legal commitments or for turning our backs on countries and people at a time of great need.