Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading HEB 9:24-28
Homily—November 10 & 11, 2018—32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
The first verses of 1 Kings introduce Elijah as the prophet who confronted King Ahab of Israel, a truly wicked monarch whose marriage to Jezebel led him to ever-greater apostasy and idolatry. Elijah starts his career by letting Ahab know that because of his evil works, the country will see “neither dew nor rain” until Elijah calls for an end to the drought. Not surprisingly, after he delivered the message, Elijah had to go into hiding.
He hid in a “wadi” which would be a deep ditch to us and it was safe until he ran out of water. God sent him to a Phoenician widow to whom he asks for a small cupful of water and a bit of bread. She explains that she was just preparing something for her son and herself and it would be their last meal before they would starve to death. Elijah asked to be fed first and then she could prepare something for herself and her son. He prophesies for the Lord, the God of Israel, that she would have flour and oil until the rains came again and it happened. What a generous woman who was willing to share with this stranger. They must have formed a real friendship of trust over the weeks and months that they were together. The prophet Elijah learned trust and solidarity with the widow and her son.
In the gospel Jesus is not happy with the scribes. They wear the long robes and look for the places of honor. They take what belongs to the widows by reciting lengthy prayers.
Jesus watches people come in and make their contributions in the temple. He was very observant of some of the rich who made big contributions and then he noticed the poor widow and how much she gave. Jesus pointed out to the disciples that she gave the most—she gave all that she had—everyone else gave from their surplus. The scribes who grew rich teaching and observing the covenant had missed its call to radical dependence on God. It was the poor widow who responded to this appeal. She gave her last coins and entrusted her well-being to God.
I suspect that most of us give from our surplus. I am one of those. I strive to be generous with the blessings that God has provided for me. People have been generous to me too. I do want to thank you for cards and gifts on the occasion of my birthday last week. Unfortunately I did not enjoy it as much as I wanted because of health issues but the antibiotics seem to be helping my sinuses to clear up.
Bishop Robert Barron wrote that “By an instinct born of aeons of evolution, we seek to hang on to what we have, to cling to our possessions, to defend our lives at all costs. But in the spiritual order this instinct is counter-indicated, for in regard to the things of God, grasping leads, not to gain, but to loss. Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather, he emptied himself. . .(Phil 2:6-7a).
Therefore, if you want the divine life in you never to run out, don’t hang on to it. Give it away? And you will find it increasing in you thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”
We are called to be the temple of God. We are called to be holy. In his recent Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate, Pope Francis has this to say about the holiness of this temple of God: “Do not be afraid of holiness. It will take away none of your energy, vitality or joy. On the contrary, you will become what the Father had in mind when he created you, and you will be faithful to your deepest self. To depend on God sets us free from every form of enslavement and leads us to recognize our great dignity.”
Jesus calls us to honor the dignity of the servant over the power of the rich, seek generous humility over the cynical celebrity, and embrace the generosity of the widow rather than the empty gestures of the scribe.
I would like to leave you with an interesting question to ponder. Who are the four people that you would like to have dinner with in heaven? I thought my first choice would be my Mom and Dad and then maybe my godfather and godmother. Maybe it could be Elijah and the widow or could I dare think it would be Jesus and Mary! Something to make you think!