Homily for the Thirty-Second Sunday of the Year (B) (8th November, 2015) on the Gospel
Ps 145:7-10 (R.V. 2);
Mk 12:38-44 or Mk 12:41-44.
Today’s gospel is made up of two parts (teachings): Jesus’ denunciation of the Scribes (Mk 12:38-40) and The widow’s offering better known as Widow’s mite (Mk 12:41-44). In today’s Mass, the second part of the gospel can either be read alone or together with the first part. We present two homilies based on these two parts of the gospel. This homily is on the widow’s mite.
Let us begin with the story of a juggler in the Middle Ages who was juggling his coloured balls and pins in the marketplace when some monks came by. The juggler expressed his desire to be a monk. The monks said, ‘What can you do?’ The juggler said, ‘I juggle.’ The monks said, ‘Well, you will have to change your ways.’
The juggler became Brother Lawrence in the monastery. Years passed and one Christmas the monks decided that each one would present a masterpiece to the infant Jesus. All but Lawrence came up with an idea. But on Christmas Eve Lawrence locked himself in the church. The monks thought he had gone mad. They ran up to the choir loft and looked down. There was Lawrence juggling before the crib scene. [to be completed later]. Culled from Fuller, G. (2010). Stories for all seasons. Mumbai: St Pauls, p. 97.
Topic: Widow’s mite.
Imagine what the scenario would be like. Surely many who knew what the poor widow put into the treasury would blame her at least for disturbing those who were putting large sums. Yet the gospel reads further:
“43Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on’” (Mk 12:43-44).
An offering therefore is not and cannot be correctly tagged ‘widows mite’ based on the amount given but based on the amount the giver has. Hence, William Barclay rightly draws some lessons from this poor widow’s offering which include:
i. “Real giving must be sacrificial. The amount of the gift never matters so much as its cost to the giver, not the size of the gift, but the sacrifice. Real generosity gives until it hurts. For many of us it is a real question if ever our giving to God’s work is any sacrifice at all....
ii. “Real giving has a certain recklessness in it. The woman might have kept one coin. It would not have been much but it would have been something, yet she gave everything she had” (Barclay, W. (2006). The daily study bible: The gospel of Mark. Bangalore: Theological Publications in India, pp. 302-303).
As one decides to give to God, one must recall that question posited by Saint Paul: “... What have you that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?” (1Cor 4:7). And the Psalmist correctly writes: “Truly no man can ransom himself, or give to God the price of his life” (Ps 49:7). We ought to offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay our vows to the Most High (Ps 50:14). We must be grateful and offer acceptable sacrifice to God, cf. Heb 12:28.
Often ministers in the Lord’s vineyard especially those working in rural areas complain bitterly that the people do not bring much as offerings, tithes, donations, and so on. Dear brethren, probably in the eyes of the disciples and others the poor widows offering is nonsense but not in the eyes of Jesus (God) who knows everything, cf. 1Jn 3:20. In as much as it is good for the people to give, ministers must be cautious because the people are to offer what they have. What a minister condemns might be pleasing to God. And the letter to the Hebrews read: “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, ‘I will never fail you nor forsake you’ (Heb 13:5). And again, Saint Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians correctly writes: “the gift is acceptable according to what one has–not according to what one does not have” (2Cor 8:12). And more importantly, people offer to God and not to you, the minster. It is God who knows how much he has given to each person. So why do you complain? That story from Fuller’s work ends with these words: They [the monks] were going to go down and seize him [the juggler] as berserk. But as Lawrence finished his juggling, the monks saw the infant in the manger reach out with a smile. Lawrence had given his all (p. 97).
My dear people of God both the clergy and the laity, ensure that what you give is in relation to what God has blessed you with. This is because sometimes we complain that others are not giving or doing enough whereas we ourselves are even guiltier than they are. The juggler has only juggling, why do people complain today that they have nothing to offer to God and their neighbours? We are different parts of Christ’s Body, (cf. 1Cor 12:12, 14; Eph 5:30) and are differently gifted for the common good, cf. 1Cor 12:7. We all must give up what we have for the good of all.
Bible Readings: 1Cor 12:1-30; 2Cor 8:1-15; Heb 12:14-28; 13:5-6; Ps 49:5-20.
Silent Prayer: Do you give to God and to others sacrificially?
Let us pray: God our Father, help us to offer to you and to our neighbours in relation to what we have – Amen.
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