Saturday, November 7, 2015

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Widow's Mite

Today’s Gospel reading should make us all squirm a little.
Is our charitable giving only from our surplus wealth?  Or is our giving breathtaking? 
This is what Jesus is asking us today.
His question should make us uncomfortable. There are no easy answers to this challenge by Christ. And it should make us think --   to reflect deeply -- especially in this time of Stewardship renewal.
If we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul and all our might, and love our sisters and brothers as ourselves as Jesus commands, we have to ask ourselves do we give enough?

Today our Church offers us two models of faith-filled giving. Both are women, both are poor and both are widows – perhaps the most marginalized of peoples of Elijah’s Day, Jesus’ Day, and today. These are people who have no visible means of support, no future, no hope.  To their despair, God appears and asks them to give.  Trusting in God’s presence in their lives, these women represent for us how to live and how to give in God’s Kingdom. They gave their all.
I don’t know about you. But this sort of talk makes me uneasy. But I know that this uneasy feeling comes from being blessed to live at the top of the world’s financial pecking order, blessed to be born in the United States, in wealth, and not in poverty.
Bishop Robert Barron had a great insight on today’s readings. He says, “Here’s the great spiritual truth. When you are linked to God who is nothing but (gift and) giving … you (too) can give and give and never run out.”
But here he says is the flipside to this truth, “When we cling to pathetic substitutes for God (money and sex and power and honor) then we can hoard and hoard and hoard all we want, but we will never have enough. He says, “To get this is to get the bible.” Wow!
Pope Francis had some challenging words for Americans to ponder on his recent visit to U.S.
The Holy Father spoke to Congress and United Nations. His words while in the U.S. were an antidote to the consumerism, materialism and the ME-ism present in society today.
How some modern scribes had a field day criticizing the Pontiff.  Scribes are the very people Christ is holding up for scorn in today’s Gospel reading.
The words of pundit and scribe George Will:
     "Pope Francis embodies sanctity but comes trailing clouds of sanctimony. With a convert's indiscriminate zeal, he embraces ideas impeccably fashionable, demonstrably false, and deeply reactionary." 
Will says: “Americans cannot simultaneously honor (Pope Francis) and celebrate their nation’s premises.”
Are we Catholics more passionate about the Kingdom of God or our own Kingdom here in the United States?
Therein lies the problem for many Americans and why it’s so tough for some of us here in the U.S. to accept Pope Francis’ message to Americans or Jesus’ message today.
The Lord brings justice to the oppressed, gives food to the hungry, sets captives free, cares for widows and orphans and thwarts the path of the wicked.
We, too, are responsible for the poor and oppressed in our society. Each of us needs to do our part to help – with our time, our talents and our treasure.   
Many of the faithful poor in the Third World are as generous as the widows in today’s readings.
Take for example the experiences of Jesuit Father Gary Smith documented in his book “They Come Back Singing.” The journal tells of his six years living among the Sudanese refugees in Northern Uganda.
Father Gary experienced giving in the Catholic communities of the refugee camps that took his breath away. Such love for God, such love for their sisters and brothers barely surviving in a region torn by years of Civil War, and generously giving to others with what little they had.
So when we are asked to give, is our giving breathtaking?  Do we give from our very livelihood, trusting in God to the point where it hurts?  Or do we only give from our surplus wealth?