YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE 32ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: OFFERING TIME; BLESSING TIME!
BY: Fr. Benedict Agbo
*1Kg 17:10-16, Heb 9 : 24 – 28, Mk 12:38-44.
Offering time is actually blessing time from time immemorial. The 3 pillars of every religion are : Prayer, Fasting and Offering, Is 58. But it is not good to use this reality to exploit people. It is also not good for people to think they can use this fact to deceive God or woo his blessings by force through their offering.
It is good to remind ourselves that God does not actually need our gifts. Even the church does not need it, strictly speaking. But we cannot be fulfilled Christians without the spirit of giving, 2 Cor 9:9 – God loves a cheerful giver.
B. OFFERINGS VS DIVINE PROMISES
The request of the man of God (Elijah) to the widow of Zarephat looks like the request of Jesus to the harlot at the well of Samaria, Jn 4 :7. It was followed by a promise : ‘For thus says the Lord, “the jar of meal shall not be spent nor the jug of oil emptied out before the day when the Lord sends rain on the face of the earth”. The scriptures said : ‘All over the world the Spirit is moving as the prophets said it should be… The earth will be full of the knowledge of the glory of Yahweh as the waters cover the earth ‘, Habakkuk 2:14.
Yes! The promise is the same : ‘Whoever gives a cup of water to the prophet… Shall have a prophet’ s reward ‘, Matt 10:40, Mal 2:11. It is also good to remember, by the way, that the famine came as a result of the Word from the prophet, 1Kg 17 :1.
The role of priests, prophets or men of God in taking our offerings to God cannot also be deemphasized. Every priest is ordained to offer sacrifices to God, Heb 5 : 1 – 3 but it is no longer in the primitive old testament way, since the 2nd reading tells us that Christ has offered a single sacrifice which we only need to commemorate, Lk 22 : 20.
C. KINDS OF OFFERINGS & GIVERS
As recorded in the scriptures,there are more than 5 different kinds of offerings done in the Church for the sake of the kingdom : (a) Tithe offering, Mal 3 :11 is offering made for the promotion of Church projects. It could be weekly, monthly or annual. It could be a tenth of one’s resource or even more as in the case of the widow’s mite of today’s gospel. (b) Thanksgiving offering, Lk 17 :11 – 19 is offering made to thank God for favours received. The mass is a thanksgiving so all mass offertory belong to this class of offering. (c) Sin offering, Lk 5 : 14 is offering made to the priest as a sign of atonement for sin committed. Every mass also shares in the merit of Christ’s atonement sacrifice on Calvary but our special intentions for each man can help sharpen the focus (d) Almsgiving offering, Matt 6 :2 is offering made to the needy for the sake of the kingdom, Matt 25 :31 – 46.(e) Seed offering, Matt 10 :40 – 42 is offering made to a priest, prophet, preacher or any man of God as a token of faith in God’s reward like the widow of Zarephat did for Elijah in today’s 1st reading. And so, she never lacked in accordance with the Word of God.
There are also about 3 kinds of givers in the church : (i) Grudge givers – They hate to give. (ii) Duty givers – They give just because it is a duty and people are watching them. (iii) Cheerful givers – They give because they love to give.
The style of Offering adopted in every Church, to some extent is determined by the kind of givers in that Church and vice versa. If majority are grudge givers and duty givers, for example, then freewill donation method may never work because people will only prefer to pay stipulated levies than give generously on their own. If offerings are not announced for example, majority may not do anything reasonable if they are not cheerful givers or thanksgivers.
Take note of this fact that to be generous, one needs not be rich. True generousity comes from the heart. It manifests more during scarcity.
D. OUR CONTEXT
In Nigeria today, we are face to face with 3 main tragedies with regards to offering : The first is the tragedy of exploitation by Church Ministers. It is unfortunate that many pastors and priests are up in their business with the principal goal of money making in the Church. They strategize for it in their preaching, prayer and the entire liturgy. And the unfortunate thing is that a lot of such money are not applied to the work of God but end up in private pockets of priests.
The next tragedy is the tragedy of poverty. Many people are afraid to give because of terrible conditions of scarcity and lack. The last is the tragedy of wastage and lack of generosity by the rich. According to Vima Dasan, ‘The tragedy of the poor is that they cannot afford to give while the tragedy of the rich is that they are handicapped by their riches’.
Money is a good servant but a dangerous master. How? Because the love of having increases by having. For those who love money, their need multiplies by the day – Big men, big trouble. So ‘they live always in a state of ambitious poverty’ – Vima Dasan.
Nigeria is one place where we specialize in spending money wrongly ; on costly funeral tents even when the dead man could not be taken care of while alife in the hospital ; where politicians like to spray money on MCs or musician praise singers than the poor around them ; where rich business men spread money on the floor during wedding dances and people waste a lot of food in ceremonies even when their poor relations are dying of hunger.
In today’s gospel, we are told that Jesus did not so much appreciate the offerings of the rich who came to church that day, especially that of the Scribes and Pharisees who exploited the poor widows (from Monday to Saturday) only to come and do showmanship on Sunday during offering time or during baarzar time in the churches.
Why did Christ so much appreciate the offering of the poor widow? What the 2 widows in today’s readings have in common is the willingness under critical circumstances, to give all that they have without counting the cost or consequence. Last Sunday we said ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit because theirs is the kingdom’. They are those who are always in need of the grace of God. Those widows needed the grace of God more than anything. Like David they said ‘I will not offer the Lord a sacrifice that costs me nothing’, 1 Chron 21:24. The generosity of the rich is so much needed in our Churches today in order to alleviate the burden being placed on the poor in our various parishes.
Don’t joke with offering time. It is actually blessing time. But most importantly, ask yourself what kind of giver you are? Grudge giver? Stingy giver? Duty giver? Exploitative giver? Ostentatious giver? Cheerful or generous giver? Happy Sunday dear friends!
– Fr. Benedict Agbo