CYCLE II: HOMILY FOR MONDAY OF THE 34TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: THE THEOLOGY OF CHURCH CONTRIBUTIONS!
BY: Fr. Benedict Agbo
HOMILY: No one can disconnect faith and offerings. They are directly proportional. No one can underestimate the importance of contributions in the Church /house of God. No one can underate the importance of this topic/area of theological discourse as we talk about Church administration /management. The truth is that if the rich are not well galvanized in any diocese or parish, the poor believers suffer more because they will be overburdened by the ecclesial responsibilities and many may begin to backslide.
I am not exactly sure how Jesus approached this matter but we are told in today’s gospel that he supervised a kind of barzar or launching ceremony and watched the rich and poor putting their gifts openly and secretly into the Church treasury and was able to observe /pinpoint the special offering of the widow as the highest before God.
When I see a lot of priests or pastors make so much noise about tithe offering as if 10% is the required standard, I wonder where they pick their facts from. Offering was and still is one of the greatest expressions of faith in and love for God. Since every love entails sacrifice, one expects, like King David said that we would not offer the Lord a sacrifice that costs us nothing, 1 Chron 21 : 24. But if 10% tithe offering was emphasized in the Old Testament, Gen 14 : 20, Mal 3 : 6 – 12, nothing makes us conclude on that as an ideal standard of offering in the New Testament. The disciples of Christ practiced something higher , Act 4 : 32 (although that was because they practiced a kind of communism not possible today) and in today’s gospel, Christ applauds the widow’s offering as highest because it was 100%. Earlier on he applauded Zacheus’ offering of 50% of his resources for the poor as salutary, Lk 19 : 8.
The widow’s mite is a perfect /ideal offering not just because of the quantity of the offering but its quality ; (i) an offering from a pure and spotless heart , (ii) an offering gotten through the right means, (iii) an offering coming from a believing heart who saw God as her great provider (Jehovah jire, Gen 22 : 14), a contribution coming out of poverty unlike the donations of the rich that was coming from their abundance with the intention of self aggrandisement and public ovation.
Jesus is watching everybody. He is critically watching both the rich and the poor to see their contributions to the ecclesiastical commonwealth. He is watching even the clergy and the laity to know who is actually making more sacrifices. Nobody can deceive him ; when you make any offering he knows what is left behind ; He even knows why you made the offering – to show off before men or to give sincerely, to sow a spiritual seed or just to fulfill a social duty, to show people that you belong or to give thanks to God? May the Church remain a place where both the offerings of the poor and the rich will be appreciated. May the spirit of free will donations not die down in the Catholic Church and not be replaced by undue taxations and ostentatious offerings.
The truth is that many people who we think are rich today are actually very poor in their minds. Erich Fromm says, ‘Not he who has much is rich, but he who gives much’. Tell me what a Professor who earns over #400,000 is doing with exploiting and robbing a poor student of #20,000 if not poverty of the mind? Many of our poor people in the parishes who contribute their little #100 everyday are actually more useful to the Church than many of our so called rich men who never go to the Church except during launchings or barzar. When they give their one million naira, everybody claps for them not knowing that the offering they have made is not even up to 1% of what God has given him. Compared to that poor widow in the village who has been contributing all round the year from her meagre resources, he has actually done nothing salutary. But Jesus is watching all that. May God grant us the wisdom to realize that he is watching us critically as Jesus did in today’s gospel. May God bless you today!
-Fr. Ben Agbo