Homily for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
Theme: AT THEIR BEST DURING THEIR WORST TIMES
By: Fr Andrew Ekpenyong at St Mary Magdalene Cath. Church, Omaha, USA.
Homily for Sunday November 7 2021
1. Do it Again Joke. At a pious association meeting in a church after Mass, a very wealthy man rose to tell the rest of those present about his Christian faith. “I’m a multi-millionaire,” he said, “and I attribute it all to the rich blessings of God in my life. I remember that turning point in my faith. I had just earned my first bi-weekly paycheck and I went to church that weekend after paying my bills and buying groceries. The preacher at Mass was a missionary who told us about his work among the poorest of the poor. I knew that I only had a 100 dollar bill left until my next paycheck in 2 weeks. But at that moment, I decided to give my whole $100 bill to God. I believe that God blessed that decision, and that is why I am a rich man, a multi-millionaire today.” When he finished and moved toward his seat, there was an awed silence. As he sat down, a nice elderly woman sitting in the same pew leaned over and said to him, “I dare you to do it again.”
2. At their Best. In today’s Gospel reading (Mk 12:38-44), our Lord sat down and did what only He is qualified to do, namely, judge others. He did it openly, for “He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury.” He carried out a Charity Contest. The poor widow who put in two small coins worth a few cents won the contest. She was declared the most charitable person in the Temple that day. Of course, our Lord did not condemn any of the donors. They all did well. But the widow did best. Our Lord carefully explained the basis of His judgement to His disciples: “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.” We are familiar with beauty contests: Miss World, Miss America, etc. We know about the richest people in the world. We hear about Person of the Year. We have lists of Top Ten this and Top Ten that. Interestingly, Scripture also suggests that we “compete” in righteousness. Alongside today’s Gospel reading, I give 2 other instances. Rm 12:10, “love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor”; and Heb 10:24 “We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works.” However, the motive of giving, the motive of generosity, should not be a matter of doing better than others since this could lead to vanity. It should be a matter of being the best I can be, to the glory of God, for “to whom much is given, much is expected” (Lk 12:48).
The Widow of Zarephath in today’s 1st reading (1 Kgs 17:10-16) was at her best in charity, when she shared with Elijah all that she and her son had to live on. She was at her best in perhaps the worst of times in her life: she was about to have her very last meal with her son, but shared it with Elijah. The widow in today’s Gospel was at her best when “from her poverty” she contributed all she had, her whole livelihood. She was at her best in perhaps the worst of times in her life. These widows have taught me a big lesson: that I can be at my best even during the worst of times or circumstances in my life.
3. Less stuff, more happiness. Dear Brothers and Sisters, how come these two widows, were at their best, when they had very little left? A few weeks ago, I left you with the saying: The love of having increases by having: amor habendi, habendum crescit. Today I add that this temptation to keep wanting more makes it harder to give a larger fraction of my wealth. There are many ways to overcome this temptation, but I find Graham Hill’s TED talk very memorable and effective: “Less Stuff, More Happiness”. The wealthy man in our starting joke seemed to be like the two widows, seemed to be at his best, when he had only $100. Must we make our selves poor so that we can easily give everything? No. Rather, it is already a win-win situation. No one is too poor to give. If we give all we have, out of our poverty then we are at our best. If we give a good fraction of our wealth, then a lot gets done for the spread of the Kingdom of God.