Fr. Mike’s homily for Saturday of the 9th Week in Ordinary Time Cycle I
Theme: The concept of generosity
By: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Homily for Saturday June 5 2021
In the course of his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.”
Jesus sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”
At the time of Jesus, lepers, orphans and widows are considered the poorest of the poor in Jewish society. That is why He has special predilection for them. Anyone who takes advantage and exploit them surely gains the ire of the Lord. That is why, the Gospel today begins with a severe condemnation of the religious leaders of Israel – the scribes and Pharisees. Not only are they haughty, hypocritical and sanctimonious; they also look down with disdain on the poor and those who have less in society. Worse, they exploit and oppress these people: “They devour the houses of widows.”
But Jesus sees beyond the external conditions of the poor. He looks into their hearts and knows how blessed and honorable they are, even more than the rich and the powerful in society. To illustrate this, the Gospel goes on with the story about the poor widow who gave a miniscule donation to the Temple treasury.
What she gave was really of no real value in the economic life: “two small coins worth a few cents”. Perhaps the rich people upon seeing this must have mocked and sneered at her. Lest His disciples be influenced by this behavior, Jesus called them aside and pointed out to them that the widow was actually more generous than the rich donors because “they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.” In other words, as St. Teresa of Kolkata said, “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”
This point, therefore, leads us to the proper understanding of the concept of generosity. Ultimately, generosity is not a matter of the pocket, but of the heart. There are many people who are generous, simply because they can afford to give significant amount of money to those in need. But the Lord is not a businessman who always looks at the bottom figure. Rather, He looks at the heart and evaluates how much love is present in the giving.
A heart that truly loves does not count. It just gives and gives until it hurts. Then, the giving becomes more meaningful and joyful. Giving out of surplus is not yet generosity. A truly generous heart is the one who loves without counting the cost and trusts without doubts and fear.
Such is the example given to us by the Lord Jesus. Perhaps we may wonder why the widow is nameless. Most likely it is because Jesus may have seen in her a symbol of Himself. He also will “empty himself”, give away everything, including his own life, out of love for His Father and for sinners. And until now and for eternity, He continues giving us His own body and blood in the Eucharist.
The lesson of today is a follow up of last Tuesday’s Gospel: “Give to God what belongs to God.” And that means everything. How generous are we to God and to those in need? Or to rephrase the question, how deep is our love and how strong is our faith in God that we are not afraid to share our blessings with those in need?
It is rightly said that when we die, what we will bring with us is only that which we have given. So the Lord said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal” (Mt 6:19-20).
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches