YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE 32ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: “Jesus said, ‘Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.’” (Mark 12:43-44)
BY: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
“There was a man who worked for the Post Office whose job it was to process all the mail that bore illegible addresses. One day a letter was delivered to his desk, shaky handwriting indicating its intended recipient: God. The postal employee thought he should see what it was about. He opened it and read:
“‘Dear God, I am an 83 year-old widow living on a very small pension. Yesterday someone stole my purse. It had $100 in it, which was all the money I had until my next pension check. Next Sunday is Christmas, and I had invited two of my friends over for dinner. Without that money, I have nothing to buy food with. I have no family to turn to, and you are my only hope. Can you please help me? Sincerely, Edna’
“The postal worker was touched. He showed the letter to all of the other workers. Each of them dug into his wallet and came up with a few dollars. By the time he made the rounds, he had collected $96, which they put into an envelope and sent to the woman. The rest of the day, all of the workers felt a warm glow for the kind thing they had done. Christmas came and went. A few days later, another letter came from the old lady, once again addressed to God. All of the workers gathered around while the letter was opened. It read:
“‘Dear God, How can I ever thank you enough for what you did for me? Because of your gift of love, I was able to fix a glorious dinner for my friends. We had a very nice day, and I told my friends of your wonderful gift. By the way, there was $4 missing. I think it must have been those thieves at the Post Office. Sincerely, Edna’” (Original source unknown)
As this story begins, Edna seems so much like the widow we meet in today’s gospel passage. She is elderly; she is poor; she is spending her last dollars to care for others at holiday time. Whose heart would not reach out to her! And when the employees of the post office discover her plight, their generosity likewise tugs at our hearts. Then things quickly fall apart, Edna turning her anger on the very people who had responded so generously to her in her need. While she is profuse in her thanks to God for his wonderful gift, she loudly berates the very people God has sent to provide for her. And we laugh! Aren’t we laughing at the recognition of ourselves we see in Edna? Can’t we remember the times we’ve slapped the very hand that has fed us, spit in the face of one who has done us a kindness? Yes, this is more than Edna’s story; this is our story.
In fact, today’s gospel passage is more about dependence on God than it is on generous almsgiving. Money is merely the currency of independence. Those who were comfortably well- off gave generous portions to the temple treasury, but they still had plenty of padding stored away to ensure a comfortable life. But that poor widow tossed into the coin box her last bit of cash, an amount so insignificant that it was hardly worth the minting. But in response to her simple giving, “Jesus said, ‘Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.’” (Mark 12:43-44) Indeed, Jesus asserts that it’s the quality of giving that matters far more than the quantity. Giving that opens one to a complete dependence on God and others is what can lead one to purity of heart and holiness of life. That’s the joke in the opening story: Edna stood at the very brink of claiming God’s providence her greatest treasure; then she threw it all away when she cursed his heavenly messengers.