32 Sunday B Nov 11 - Homilies

Thomas O'Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration  

We can gather here because each of us has heard, in some way or another, the divine invitation to become beloved daughters and son of the Father. The Spirit has moved our hearts to set out to follow the Lord, and we have started on a journey towards the Father in the way we live our lives. However, as we gather today to celebrate this journey, we are also conscious that we often fail to live life in accordance with this invitation. The gospel recalls Jesus seeing a poor widow in the temple treasury and his way of looking at this woman is a challenge to all of us who accept his invitation to follow him. 
Gospel: Mk 12:38-44 (shorter version: 41-44)

These two pieces of tradition, one a teaching on religious ostentation, the other an object lesson drawn from life, are connected by Mark as a unit in that they both mention widows — the very image of poverty and marginality in ancient patriarchal societies. In the first part of the periscope the summit of offence is that these religious people abuse widows and swallow up their life-support; in the second part of the periscope we are presented with an ideal of righteousness: the widow is greater than the wealthy and the ostentatious. The real devotee is the person who shares their little rather than the great donor whose name is then held in honour. As arranged by Mark this periscope is like a diptych: two joined pictures facing each other and we are invited to compare, indeed contrast, the characters in each. On the one hand, a scene that is visible to the whole public, while on the other a private scene that goes unnoticed except by Jesus. The first character belongs to the world of ostentation and display, the widow to gritty reality and there her great offering places her in the presence of God.

This short crisp unit is only found in Mark. Several bits of this pericope survive in Luke but they are far less focused, while Matthew has mutilated the first section out of recognition and omitted the actual woman. 

**********************************
Sean Goan 

This incident takes up a theme present in the first reading, namely that those who show the greatest generosity are not always those with the most to give. However, before Jesus comments on the poor widow who gives of her all he roundly condemns those whose behaviour brings the practice of religion into discredit. Their aim is to be noticed and well thought of because of their adherence to religioUs ritual but by their actions they are revealed as oppressors who care nothing for the plight of those most in need, in fact they even add to their misery. This is a sham that offends Jesus to the core. It is in the context of condemning such behaviour that he notices the poor widow whose actions show her to be a woman of deep faith and trust. It is worth pointing out that Jesus is not suggesting that the poor who give of what they have and leave themselves with nothing are doing what is expected of them. No, he is merely using the behaviour of the woman the show up the inadequacies of others who could learn much from her.

****************************************
Michel DeVerteuil  
Textual Comments

Jesus is teaching in Jerusalem, the center of the Jewish religion, the heart of the opposition to all he stood for. Remembering this
context will give an added dimension to our meditation.

The passage is in two sections:
-    verses 38 to 40,
-    verses 41 to 44, the touching story of the widow.

In verses 38 to 40 we see first the simple fact that Jesus spoke out courageously in Jerusalem – a model not merely for the church but for all his followers. Then there is the content of his teaching – the tendency for all of us religious people to seek public approval (usually an unconscious tendency brought to light by a Jesus person). Follow St Mark in making a connection between that tendency and swallowing the property of widows in verse 40.

We must be careful to interpret verses 42 to 44 correctly. Jesus is not pointing out the difference between people who can give plenty and people who can give very little, as the passage is often interpreted. He is pointing out the difference between giving what we have left over and giving all that we have.
You might like to focus on Jesus again in this section - for example, on the fact that he noticed the widow. What kind of person does this show him to be?
You might also like to see if you can make a connection between the two sections of the passage, based on your own experience.

*************************************

Reflection 

In the modern era it is no doubt hard for us to relate to language about the blood of animals and sacrifices by priests in the temple. However, the language of sacrifice is still very relevant to our world. Ironically this can be seen in the first reading where the actions of a poverty-stricken widow show us that the only sacrifice that matters is self sacrifice. God is not interested in the spilling of blood for this makes no change either in him or us. Rather God is concerned about whether we live for ourselves or for others, and Jesus in offering his life, not just by his death on the cross but by everything he did, has shown us the way. 

 HOMILY NOTES

1. When we stand and recite the creed we affirm our belief in the events surrounding our salvation: the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and in what he has revealed to us about the Father and the Spirit. Because we solemnly affirm this faith each Sunday, it is all too easy to slip into thinking that to be a Christian is simply a matter of accepting that creed. The argument runs like this: I profess the creed, therefore I am a ‘Christian’. That is fine if you think of being a ‘Christian’ in terms of accepting a particular set of religious beliefs. But one might be described as a ‘Christian’, and yet not be a follower of the Christ.

2. To be a follower of Jesus is far more engaging than just accepting a creed: it is a whole way of thinking about life, a way of acting, and an alternative vision of the world. Following Christ involves us as social beings how we relate to other human beings, economic actors in society — what constitutes our values for success and what we believe to be worthy economic goals, and how we work to build up the society around us — how we relate to the larger problems such as peace-making, global poverty, the destruction of the environment.

3. Being a Christian involves seeing the whole of the universe as the creation of a loving God.

4. We glimpse this new vision of life in the tiny incident that is recalled today. It seems so banal: a tiny incident by an anonymous poor woman and a comment by Jesus upon it — can that really indicate a wholly different vision of the world from that which is our society’s common ‘default option’?

5. The widow, the proverbial image for the most marginalised in ancient society, is a person of no importance whatsoever. She is just one of the mass of people who need to be processed through this particular system — namely people wanting to make an offering to God at the temple — as fast as possible. She is indistinguishable from thousands of others and what she actually contributed is, equally, viewed as insignificant. She is not a person, but a biological entity. She is the type of person that can be left queuing indefinitely without being spoken to or given a sign of fellow human recognition. She can be brusquely pushed aside by clearly uniformed minor officials when a VIP has to be given special treatment and impressed. She is, if she dared to speak to one of those officials, just a problem. In terms of her economic significance, she is nothing. And the frightening reality is that we view so much of the world using that optic. If an individual, a group, a country does not impact on us economically, then it and its problems do not matter. We are more interested in countries whose land has oil than carrots!

6. The wealthy making a carefully calculated donation to the temple, and getting VIP treatment while they do so, are a familiar group: they would love to be alive today in ‘the age of celebrity’ and would be happy to volunteer to participate in some glitzy event. But we also see the widow. One might even experience her plight while waiting in casualty in a hospital, trying to obtain justice from some vast bureaucracy, or even at a large religious gathering when it is clear to the stewards that some are more united to Christ than others.

7. Jesus’s view of the situation is radically different. Each person is to be viewed as an individual. And each individual is worthy of respect for each is to be understood from within her or his own circumstances. This woman, her situation, her intention: these form the framework of how Jesus sees her. Only within this framework can it be seen that she has given more than the rich.

To learn to view others with dignity and respect is no easy ttask: it goes right against the grain. To relate to individuals rather than mobs is also counter-cultural and flies against the fundamentals of mass consumption. To appreciate that each person is a beloved of God can only be known by those who themselves have responded to divine invitation to become beloved themselves.

8. To learn to view others with dignity and respect is no easy task: it goes right against the grain. To relate to individuals rather than mobs is also counter-cultural and flies against the fundamentals of mass consumption. To appreciate that each person is a beloved of God can only be known by those who themselves have responded to divine invitation to become beloved themselves. 

Prayer Reflection: 

Lord, people today set great store on show;
-    the wealthy and powerful are much sought after;
-    -when people give donations to charity it is written up in the papers.
We pray that the church may continue to judge things like Jesus did.
When we sit down opposite a treasury
and see those who are putting in a great deal
we may notice, like Jesus did, the poor widow
who comes and puts in two small coins, the equivalent of a penny.
Give us the courage then to call people and to say plainly to them
that the poor widow has put in more
than all who have contributed to the treasury,
for they put in what they had over,
but she, from the little she had, put in everything she possessed,
all she had to live on.

Lord, if the property of defenseless people
is so often swallowed up in society today
it is because we are putting too much store on public acclaim,
on who is wearing long robes,
and being greeted obsequiously in the market squares;
on who takes the front seats in church
and places of honour at banquets.
Lord have mercy.

Lord, we remember with gratitude a time when we were not succeeding
-    at school, no matter how much we tried we could not get our sums right;
-    in our family, a brother or sister just kept getting on our nerves;
-    at work, others finished their tasks long before we could
We thank you that at that moment you sent Jesus to us
- a teacher, a parent, a supervisor,
someone who understood that even though we did not have much to show
we were giving more than all the others
because from the little we had we were giving everything.

Lord, Jesus was such a balanced person.
He pointed out the faults of the powerful,
those who made a show if lengthy prayers
and at the same time swallowed the property of widows.
But he was also constructive.
By praising the poor widow who gave everything she possessed,
he showed us all the way we could go.

Lord, when we find people using lengthy prayers
to cover up the fact that they are swallowing the property of widows
we are more severe in our judgment of them,
Now we know that Jesus felt the same way.

“A society that does not value women turns likewise a deaf ear to its children;
in other words, it cuts off its own future.”    
Jeanne Henriquez of Curaçao
Lord, we pray that like Jesus we may always notice the women of our society
Who give themselves unreservedly to bringing up their families.
From the little they have, they put everything they possess,
All they have to live on.

“A young woman asked an old woman, ‘What is life’s hardest burden?’
And the old woman replied, ‘To have nothing to carry.’” A Jewish tale
Lord, we feel sorry for people who only know
about giving what they have left over.
They do not know the joy
of giving everything they possess to a cause they believe in.
*****

ILLUSTRATIONS:

1. You Never Missed It

A priest once asked one of his parishioners to serve as financial chairman of his parish. The man, manager of a grain elevator, agreed on two conditions: no report would be due for a year, and no one would ask any questions during the year. At the end of the year he made his report. He had paid off the church debt of $200,000. He had redecorated the church. He had sent money to missions. He had $5,000 in the bank. Needless to say, everyone wanted to know how. The man quietly explained, "You people bring your grain to my elevator. As you did business with me, I simply withheld 10 percent and gave it to the church. You never missed it."  

David E. Leininger, The View from Jesus' Pew
_____________________

2. Giving Till It Hurts

Don't give till it hurts. Give till it helps. The story is told of a very wealthy man who had never been known for his generosity to the church. The church was involved in a big financial program and they resolved to pay him a visit. When the committee met with the man one afternoon, they said that in view of his considerable resources they were sure that he would like to make a substantial contribution to this program.

"I see," he said, "so you have it all figured out have you? In the course of your investigation did you discover that I have a widowed mother who has no other means of support but me?" No, they responded, they did not know that. "Did you know that I have a sister who was left by a drunken husband with five children and no means to provide for them?" No, they said, we did not know that either. "Well, sir, did you know also that I have a brother who is handicapped due to an automobile accident and can never work another day to support his wife and family?" 

Embarrassingly, they responded, no sir, we did not know that either. "Well," he thundered triumphantly, "I've never given any of them a cent so why should I give anything to you?"

Like that man, most of us never give till it hurts or helps. It is interesting to me that people who tithe in the church never speak of it as hurting. My wife and I tithe and it has not made life painful for us in the least. We started discussing some days ago what our pledge to the church for next year would be and how we could increase it. That doesn't sound like it hurts does it? It is the grudging giver, who is the one who always registers the complaint: At that church all they talk about is money." So let us get off of this notion of give till it hurts so that we affirm we give till it helps.
____________________

3. Humor: Now That I Have Your Undivided Attention

 A businessman who needed millions of dollars to clinch an important deal went to the temple to pray for the money. By chance he sat next to a man who was praying for $100 to pay an urgent debt.  

The businessman took out his wallet and pressed $100 into the other man's hand. Overjoyed, the man got up and left the temple. The businessman then closed his eyes and prayed: "And now, Lord, that I have your undivided attention . . ."

 Traditional. Told by Billy Strayhorn
____________________
 
4. The Widow's Mite for $39.95 

An advertisement I ran across read: "Now you too can own a Genuine Coin From The Time of Jesus: The Widow's Mite. It's a minor miracle that this coin has survived and now people of faith can study, cherish, and protect it for future generations. It's yet another miracle that they're so affordable."

Then, the ad goes on to quote the Scripture we just heard, "While our limited supplies last, you may order the 2,000 year old Widow's Mite for only $39.95 plus shipping and handling. Remember this is the genuine coin mentioned in the Holy Bible and it makes a perfect gift for your child, grandchild, or favorite clergyman."

The advertisement makes it sound like your buying the actual coin the widow dropped into the receptacle. Of course, you are not. It doesn't exist. Harder still is to purchase the woman's attitude of generosity, which is of greater value in today's market. 

Brett Blair
_______________________

5. It's How You Give

Abraham Lincoln, was once hired by a man to sue someone else because they owed him $2.50. Not a large amount, but in the l860's it was. Lincoln didn't want to take the case but his client insisted. So Abe asked for a $l0.00 retainer fee up front. His client handed him the $l0. Lincoln then gave the man who owed $2.50 half of the ten. The man promptly paid his debt and everyone went home happy. It's not what you give, it is HOW you give. God wants us to give of ourselves joyfully without expecting anything in return. 

Keith Wagner
____________________

6. I Have a Dollar 

The Junior Sunday School Teacher asked her eight eager children if they would give $1,000,000 to the missionaries. "YES!" they all screamed!! "Would you give $1,000?" Again they shouted, "YES!" "How about $100?" "Oh, YES we would!" they all agreed!! "Would you give just a dollar to the missionaries?" she asked. The boys exclaimed "YES!" just as before except for Johnny. "Johnny," the teacher said as she noticed the boy clutching his pocket, "why didn't you say 'YES' this time?" "Well," he stammered, "I HAVE a dollar." 

Traditional
_____________________
The danger of pride is that it feeds on goodness.
Traditional
__________________
7. A Symbol of Hope 

Ruele Howe tells about growing up with his parents in the country. When he was 15 years old, the house caught on fire. They escaped with only the clothes on their backs. There were no close neighbors to help so he and his father walked to a distant village to get supplies. As they returned they saw something that stayed with Ruele Howe all those years after. Beside the charred remains of what had been their house, his mother had laid out lunch on a log. She had placed a tin can filled with wildflowers on the log. It was a symbol of hope in the midst of tragedy.

This is the Christian faith, isn't it? She didn't try to cover up the disaster with flowers, but in the midst of that gloomy scene she had placed a symbol of hope.

These two coins that the widow placed in the temple treasury were her wildflowers. This was her symbol, her way of saying I know God will provide.

King Duncan
___________________________
8. Who Is Important? 

It's easy to become confused about who's important in our society. We are encouraged to think of celebrities as most important. Television shows are devoted to their lives, and magazines and newspapers keep us informed of their every move. The movers and the shakers, too, are touted as important. Imagine how powerful the chairman of the Federal Reserve is! With a single sentence in a speech he can send the stock market plummeting. These are the people we are taught to regard as important.  

In the meantime many of our elderly waste away in nursing homes, forgotten even by their families. They don't make the news, aren't featured in magazines and newspapers, and are regarded simply as society's "throw-always." Thankfully widows today do not have the meager social status they had in Jesus' time. However, it is not hard to find contemporary parallels to the poor widow of this story. Just consider the homeless people in our communities. 

Robert Kysar
__________________
9. Cordially Yours 

I'm reminded of the story of the young soldier who was overseas. He was writing his girlfriend. He wanted to send her a telegram because he thought that would make more of an impression. So he gave the telegraph operator a message to send. The message was this: "I love you. I love you. I love you. John."

The telegraph operator said, "Son, for the same amount of money you can send one more word." So he amended his message and it read like this: "I love you. I love you. I love you. Cordially, John."

Many of us profess our love for God, "I love you, I love you, I love you," but when push comes to shove our devotion is more like "cordially" than it is love.
This widow put her money where her heart was. She gave all she had. And Jesus praised her. 

King Duncan
 
10. Mother Teresa’s mite:  

Consider David Porter's comment on Mother Teresa: "She was born as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu (AG-nes GOHN-jah BOY-yah-jee-oo), to Albanian parents in Yugoslavia. She went to India in 1929 as a member of the Loreto Order of nuns, after learning English in their Motherhouse in Dublin Ireland.  There she taught for many years and became principal of the school.  In 1946, she received her 'call within a call' to work with the poorest of the poor.  By 1948, she had received permission to leave the Loreto order and had trained in the nursing skills she would need to carry out her calling.  She prayed, "Oh God, if I cannot help these people in their poverty and their suffering, let me at least die with them, close to them, so that I can show them your love" [Mother Teresa: The Early Years, 67;  cited by Caroline J. Simon, "The Media and Mother Teresa," Perspectives, 12 (March, 1997), 3.]  Simon notes: "From this simple beginning, the Missionaries of Charity have grown to include 4,500 Sisters and Brothers, 755 homes for the children, the sick, the destitute and the dying and 1,369 medical clinics that serve 120,000 worldwide."  Mother Teresa's mite has might, and it's the ever-growing might of love in action.

11. A widow’s mite in the life of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.

By birth and marriage, Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton was linked to the first families of New York and enjoyed the fruits of living in high society.  Reared a staunch Episcopalian by her mother and stepmother, she learned the value of prayer, Scripture reading and a nightly examination of conscience.  At 19, Elizabeth was the belle of New York.  She married a handsome, wealthy businessman, William Magee Seton.  They had five children before his business failed, and William died of tuberculosis.  At 30, Elizabeth found herself widowed and penniless, with five small children to support.  While in Italy with her dying husband, Elizabeth had witnessed the Catholic Church in action, through the lives, beliefs and behavior of family friends.  Three basic elements in Catholicism led her to become a Catholic in March, 1805: a belief in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary as Mother of God, and a conviction that the Catholic Church traced its origin and priesthood in a direct line back to the apostles and to Christ.  When Elizabeth returned to the U. S., many of her family and friends rejected her because she had become a Catholic. To support her children, she opened a school in Baltimore with the cooperation of some of her friends.  From the beginning, her group was organized along the lines of the religious community which would only be founded officially in 1809.  Mother Seton became one of the keystones of the American Catholic Church.  She founded the first American religious community for women, the Sisters of Charity.  She opened the first American parish school and established the first American Catholic orphanage. All this she did in the span of 46 years while rearing her five children.  She died on January 4, 1821, and was buried in Emmitsburg, Maryland.  In 1963, Mother Seton was beatified, the first American-born citizen to receive this honor.  She was canonized in 1975.  Elizabeth Ann Seton was a real widow who offered her mite to God without reservation as the poor widow in today’s gospel did (Adapted from St. Anthony’s Messenger). 

12. Fanny Epps' mite has might of love:   

Mrs. Epps likes the time she spends with children. So she enjoys her time as a volunteer at the Norge Elementary School in Williamsburg, Virginia. There, she works with students who have mental and physical disabilities. Her day begins long before she goes on duty at 7 a.m. She has to catch a bus to get to the school. When she gets there, she greets Drew who has difficulty walking. Another one of her favorites has Down syndrome. He sits beside her, smiling. She turns on the tape recorder and plays "Jingle Bell Rock," while her students sing and clap enthusiastically. It takes a lot of energy to work all morning, five days a week, with these children. Oh, did I mention that Mrs. Epps is 99 years old? Wasted time, twisted values? "I don't want to act dead while I'm still alive," she says. Fanny Epps' mite has might, and it's the might of love!
  
13. Chicken and Pig: 

You know the old joke about the chicken and the pig that saw the church sign saying "Help feed the hungry."  The chicken said "That's a good idea!  Let's help by putting in our 'widow’s mite.'  Let's give ham and eggs."  The pig said "That's easy for you to say, but for me it's a total commitment!"

14. Church Collection 

A six-year-old boy, home from his first day at church, was asked what he thought of the Holy Mass. "It was OK," he replied, "but I think it was unfair that the pastor at the altar did all the work, and then a bunch of other people came around and took away all the money." Amen to that small lad's insight! 

15. The Bank or the Church 

A colleague once told how "a certain woman phoned her personal banker to arrange for the disposal of a $1,000 bond. The voice on the phone asked for clarification, "Is the bond for conversion or redemption?'' The confused woman paused and then inquired, "Am I talking to the bank or the church?''