HOMILY FOR THE THIRTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B:
THEME: RADICAL GENEROSITY
BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa
During a fund raising event for the completion of a new Church building, the Pastor stood up and said to the members of the congregation: “I have good news and bad news for you. The good news is that we have enough money to pay for the completion of our new Church, but the bad news is that the money is still in your pockets and bank accounts” The building can only be completed when people dip their hands into their pockets or withdraw from their bank accounts and dole out money generously. The congregation felt challenged, and so responded generously for the completion of the church building.
Scriptures present to us the story of two widows who had something in common. They were both generous in offering their livelihood to God. During famine, the prophet Elijah was directed to go to a widow at Zarephat. Interestingly, she did not practice the same religion with Elijah and she was not of the same tribe with him. He asked her for a drink and a crust of bread. She had only a handful of flour in her jar and a little oil in her jug. She was about to prepare the last meal in the house for herself and her son. The prophet Elijah begged her to give him something out of these scarce resources, to eat first, before feeding herself and her son. She did as the prophet requested. The prophet assured her that for her act of generosity, “The jar of her flour shall not go empty, or the jug of oil run dry.” The prophecy of the prophet was fulfilled and she and her son survived the famine (1 Kings 17:10-16). In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus took special note of a widow during offertory time. It was not because she put in much, but because she put in all she had to live on – two small copper coins. In the sight of the world, this offering went unnoticed, but in the sight of God, it was much, it was significant and substantial based on her financial status. She gave out the fortune she was saving, her whole livelihood. She did not give in order to earn some praise or applause, but she gave out of her faith that God would supply all her needs according to His riches and glory.
The message we can derive from the story of the widow’s mite is not limited to the generosity of this poor widow. Jesus used the story to denounce religious leaders who are constantly demanding for honour and privileges and who take advantage of the poor. His praise of the widow is a radical action, which exalts the humble and humbles the exalted. Jesus acted as a radical who reversed the temple system, asking those who sit in front rows to go to the backseats, and those who sit on the back rows to step up to the front seats. By praising the widow he was giving recognition to ordinary, simple, but dedicated people who are hardly noticed in places of worship. He offers a prize of praise to all unsung heroes and heroines of our faith communities and all those people of goodwill whose significant contribution attracts little or no attention. Jesus mentions the virtue of the widow to demonstrate to his listeners and followers that true religion is not just external and ostentatious piety, but about how much we are able to give of resources and ourselves to God. A generous gift from the heart is the kind of offering acceptable to God.
The Letter to the Hebrews speaks of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus who offers his own blood (Hebrew 9:24-28). He offered himself as a lamb of sacrifice for us. He became poor so that we could be rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). After he gave us all he had, he breathed his last, saying, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Jesus is a model for the highest form of generosity, which is self- offering in love. Let us all adopt the prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola who prayed, “Lord, teach me to be generous… To give and not to count the cost.”
32nd Sunday of the Year B/ 1 Kings 17:10-16; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44.
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