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YEAR B: HOMILY/REFLECTION FOR THE 32ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
TOPIC: TRUST AND GENEROSITY
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Gospel: Mk 12:38-44
Message # 260: “The Path of Penance”
(TO THE PRIESTS, Our Lady’s Beloved Sons, Marian Movement of Priests)
1. The Marian Message
a. The Blessed Mother invites us all to take the path of penance. Together with prayer, it is our weapon in this final battle (letter b). The path of penance has three stages: the first stage is that of renunciation and self-denial; the second stage is that of carrying one’s cross properly; and the third is that of following Jesus to Calvary.
b. Renunciation and self-denial are essential in order to practice love which necessarily entails self-giving. “Disordered attachments, passions, immoderate desires, ambition” have to be renounced, never seeking success and human approval (letter d). Instead, we are reminded to carry out our apostolate “in silence, in humility, and the daily and faithful fulfillment of your duties”, always having “a love for being hidden.” “In this way, you will mortify egoism which constitutes your greatest peril” (letter e). Renunciation and self-denial will definitely give us true interior freedom, always seeking and discerning the will of God in our lives (letter f).
c. The second stage is carrying one’s cross properly. “This cross is made up of the difficulties one encounters when one desires to fulfill solely the will of God” (letter h). It is a call to fidelity in the fulfillment of our tasks every day, and it shapes us into the likeness of Jesus Crucified.
d. Important advice to priests: “In your priestly apostolate never seek to please yourselves, or to procure some personal advantage; give yourselves always with all the inexhaustible force of love, and do not let ingratitude stop you, or misunderstandings stand in your way; indifference should not make you hesitate nor should lack of cooperation cause you to become weary. It is above all in your priestly suffering that souls can be begotten by you to the life of grace and to salvation” (letter f).
e. The third stage is that of “following Jesus toward Calvary” (letter m). In his lifetime, Jesus has already fixed his gaze on Jerusalem where he will offer his life in total self-sacrifice for the salvation of mankind. As followers of Jesus, we are expected to follow him in that direction – “toward the consummation of your paschal immolation for the salvation of all” (letter o). There are many problems and obstacles along the way – rejection, errors, sins – but “today, to remain faithful to your calling is to follow the stern path that leads to Calvary” (letter p).
2. The Sunday Gospel
a. The Gospel this Sunday presents two directly contrasting images. On the one hand is the image of the revered and important figures in Israel – the religious leaders and the rich people. They are the ones who run the whole society. Their voice and influence are the guide of the people. They have the money, the power and the prestige. On the other hand, the contrasting image is that of a poor widow. She represents the opposite spectrum of society: those who are not important; those who have nothing at all. She is a woman – she has no political rights. She is old – no strength, beauty and youth. She is a widow – no husband, no son, no family, no future. And she is poor – no money, no house, no possessions. In short, she is nobody.
b. In the eyes of the people, the religious leaders and the rich persons are very important. But in the eyes of Jesus, it is the poor widow who is more important. It is easy to neglect and forget this widow had it not been for the attention that Jesus gave to her. She donated two coins, just worth a penny, into the Temple collection box. But what is that compared to the large donations of the rich? Yet in the eyes of Jesus, those two coins are more precious than all the donations taken together: “This poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury.”
c. There are several important reasons why the poor widow looked great in the eyes of Jesus. First, her generosity: “For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.” The two coins were all she had, and yet she still gave these away, with open hands and heart – without strings attached, and without any condition, reservation or hesitation.
d. Second, she was generous to the point of folly because of her total trust in God. She knew deep in heart that God would not forsake her. She had nothing in this world except her two coins. Yet she was not a miser – she opened her hands and let go of all she had, a picture of total entrustment of herself to God.
e. Third, she is definitely humble. She knew she had nothing at all that society considers valuable. She came to the temple just to pray and give her donation. Unlike the rich who boast of their large donations, and unlike the scribes who “like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplace, seats of honor in synagogues and at banquets, and recite long prayers,” this poor widow had no other motive but to worship God in humility and trust.
f. Fourth, and most importantly, she is great because she is the perfect reflection of Jesus Crucified. She opened her hands and gave away “everything she had to live on” – it is tantamount to giving her whole life. Jesus opened his hands on the cross and gave away everything, his whole life, for us. She had nothing – no money, no dignity, and no power. Jesus, on the cross, had nothing – no clothes, no dignity, no money and no power. She trusted God fully. Jesus trusted in the Father – “Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit!”
g. The Blessed Mother’s message this week is urging us to follow the will of God by taking the path of Penance – self-denial, the cross and Calvary. This is clearly shown in the example of the poor widow. She totally denied herself by giving everything she had, and she did not complain about her poverty. Instead of asking from God, she gave her two coins. She knew how to embrace the cross lovingly and patiently.
3. Points for Reflection
a. True greatness is solely based on our union with God, and nothing else. We should not say that a person is great because he is wealthy and contributes large donations to the church. His wealth comes from God. We should not say that he is great because he is intelligent and has doctorate degrees summa cum laude. His intelligence comes from God. We should not say that he is great because he holds a position of power in society or in the church. Legitimate authority comes from God alone. Everything that we have comes from God. When we acknowledge this with gratitude and act according to this knowledge, we are humble. Then God will exalt us. True greatness is not in having anything, but in having God, in being with God. That is the greatness of the poor widow in the Gospel. And the closer we are with God, the more humble we become because we will see ever more clearly our own sins and limitations.
b. A person who is stingy (kuripot) and a miser will never enter heaven. First, because he is selfish: he is unwilling to share. This is the complete opposite of love. As the saying goes, “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” Second, because he lacks trust in God. He is not willing to share because obviously he depends more on his material possessions than on God. Third, because he can never follow the example of Jesus, who gave up everything and who came not to be served but to serve.
c. “The world is enough for man’s need, but the world is not enough for man’s greed.” The rich people in the Gospel gave large donations. But these are not really valuable in the eyes of God. In the first place, Jesus said that these donations were only “from their surplus wealth.” Second, because they had ulterior motives – they gave expecting praise and admiration from people, and they hoped to get something back. We see this every time election season comes. There is an overflow of money in the country. Politicians are extra generous, and they spend lots of money to give to the poor, to charity and even to the church. But these are all worthless in the eyes of God for they have the wrong motivations and selfish interests. Underlying all these is still greed. It is greed that makes our life in this world miserable. Even the poor are greedy, and they also take advantage of corrupt politicians and businessmen. It is greed that pulls down in the quicksand of corruption and misery both the rich and the poor. The problem of the world now is not lack of money, but greed. We need genuine spiritual renewal in order to root out greed from our hearts. We need leaders, both in the secular society and in the Church, who will follow the leadership of Jesus – a leadership of love, generosity, humility and self-sacrifice.
d. Generosity is not only in terms of money and material things. We can and should also be generous especially in matters which money cannot buy. We should learn to share our faith and courage to those who are troubled and afraid. We can also share our talents and abilities, and the more we share them, the more they are developed. One blessing, which is most difficult to share, is time. Even parents lack quality time for their children. Finding time to listen to a person with problems, doubts and fears is already a great apostolate. But most importantly, we should share Jesus Christ with others. The classic example of this is found in the Acts of the Apostles. Peter and John went to the Temple to pray. A beggar approached them asking for alms. Peter said to him: “Look at us. I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk!” (Acts 3:6). After the Mass, for example, think of simple ways to share Jesus, whom we received during Communion, to others.
e. “The more you give, the more you receive.” St. Francis even said in his Prayer for Peace: “It is in giving that we receive.” Jesus also said: “There is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age…and eternal life in the age to come.” (Mk 10:29-30). This is the secret of Divine Economics. It has been taught by Christ and has been proven true and effective. Yet people continue to ignore this lesson. The underlying truth behind this is clear: God is the source of all the blessings, and we are just His channels and instruments through which these blessings flow to others. So, the more we share, the more blessings will come our way. God can never be outdone in generosity.
“Love is Something that You Give It Away” “It’s just like a magic penny. Hold on tight and you won’t get any. Share it, spend it and give it away, and it all comes back to you!”
GUIDE QUESTIONS FOR SHARING IN THE B.E.C.
1. Bakit napakabilis magpatayo ng simbahan ang mga Iglesia ni Kristo, samantalang hirap na hirap ang mga Katoliko?
2. Alin ang mas madaling lapitan para humingi ng tulong: ang mga mayayaman, o ang mga karaniwang tao lamang?
3. Masama ba ang maging mayaman at mabuti ang maging mahirap? Ano ba talaga ang turo ni Kristo tungkol sa kayamanan at kahirapan?