By REV. LUNA L. DINGAYAN
“…Others offered their gifts from what they had to spare of their riches; but she, poor as she is, gave all she had to live on.” — Luke 21:4
Birth of a Fellowship
Sometime in 1956, the United Presbyterian Church Women in the US sponsored four women in Asia to visit the East Asian countries. One of the four women was an Indian woman by the name of Shanti Solomon. She was denied permission to go to Korea, because at that time Korea and India did not have any diplomatic relations. Therefore, Shanti had to stay in the Philippines while her companions proceeded to Korea.
While she was in the Philippines, Shanti had the chance to be exposed to the situation of Filipino women. She had some serious study and reflections in the light of the story of the widow’s offering as recorded in the Gospel of Luke 21:1-4. In this story Jesus greatly appreciated the offering the poor widow who dropped in the Temple treasury two little copper coins. For Jesus Christ our Lord the widow, poor as she was, gave all she had to live on, while the others offered their gifts from what they had to spare of their riches.
After studying the story of the widow’s offering, the thought came to Shanti that through prayers, women of every economic and ethnic background could share and pray for each other’s concerns on an equal basis. And the visible sign of this covenant relationship among women and peoples around the world would be the setting aside of the least coin of that country as each one pray for reconciliation with her or his neighbor. And so, the Fellowship of the Least Coin was born.
Now, women all over the world celebrate this world-wide fellowship every last Sunday of September even as they share the least coin of their respective countries purposely to help women in countries most in need.
Parable of the Lost Coin
The women’s fellowship of the least coin strikes a significant cord in our hearts as we reflect on God’s Word today. Onetime, Jesus Christ our Lord told the parable of the lost coin to a group of Scribes and Pharisees who were disturbed about Jesus’ act of welcoming and eating with tax collectors and social outcasts (Lk.15:8-10). There is a significant relation between the least coin and the lost coin. In most cases, the least coin is a lost coin, a coin that has already lost its value.
The story of the lost coin is a very simple parable. It is about a woman who lost one of her ten silver coins. Apparently, the woman valued the coin so much that she had to light a lamp, swept her house, and looked carefully everywhere until she found it. And when she found the lost coin, she invited her friends and neighbors for a celebration.
Indicator of Life’s Value
In the light of this parable, let us reflect on the significance of the least coin for our life today. First of all, we can say that the least coin indicates how people are classified and stratified on the basis of their economic value. When we talk of upper, middle, and lower classes of people, we are in fact talking in terms of how much people own. If what we only have are the least coins, we are also considered the least persons in society. But if what we have are the biggest coins, then we are also considered the biggest persons in our society.
In other words, the value of human life is somehow attached to the coin. This is probably the reason why the woman in the parable must have to search for the lost coin, because her life to a certain extent is anchored on this coin. The problem when life is attached to the coin is that when the coin looses its value, human life also looses its value. For instance, the least coin in 1956 when the Fellowship of the Least Coin started is not the same as that of today, not only in texture but also in value.
And now, look at the quality and value of human life today. Many are just killed like chickens. Like the least coin that has lost its value, human life, sad to say, also has lost its value. Indeed, in a society where human life is attached to the coin, the least coin can be an indicator of the kind of life that we have.
Miracle of the Least Coin
But thanks to God! Shanti Solomon saw the possibility of regaining the lost value of the least coin and the kind of life the least coin represents. By using the least coin as symbol of a worldwide fellowship of women, Shanti was trying to open the eyes of the world to the value of those who are considered least in society, those who are outcasts and marginalized, those who have only the least coins in their hands. By doing this, she was in effect saying to us that the least, the last, and the lost of the world can be a powerful force for genuine peace and reconciliation.
We know pretty well that the value of something lies not in itself, but in the efforts, the work, the struggle that we put into it. For instance, a coin becomes valuable to us, even if it is the least coin, if we have really worked for it, and put all our efforts into it. The lost coin in the parable is valuable simply because the woman had worked hard to find it.
What we are in fact saying is that the value of the fellowship of the least coin is found not in the coin itself that is collected all over the world. But rather, it is found in the worldwide women’s fellowship it represents. The value of the fellowship of the least coin is found in its power to break down the human barriers between and among peoples and nations. This is the miracle of the least coin. #