Theme: Hoping on divine providence
By: Fr. Jude Chijioke
Homily for Sunday November 7 2021
32ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YR B.
1 Kings 17: 10-16; Hebrews 9: 24-28; Mark 12: 38-44
Jesus said to the crowd: “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, and as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. they will receive a very severe condemnation.” (Mk 12)
Observing how the crowd put money into the treasury ……, he said: “For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.” (Mk 12)
Our last Sunday’s liturgy presented us with the portrait of a scribe “close to the Kingdom of God”, the one who has accepted the precept of love for God and neighbor as the first of all the commandments. Today, however, almost negatively, Jesus draws for us the face of a perverse and hypocritical scribe. However, this is a sketch that is not exclusive to Judaism, because unfortunately we can find same face in the spirituality of many Christians. Jesus makes a harsh criticism of an artificial and false religiosity, rhetorical and external, characterized of interior emptiness. Today, Christ frowns at some arrogant and solemn attitudes, wrapped only on the outside with religion but the inside is filled with ambition, selfishness, and pride.
First, there is the walking in long ritual robes, an allusion to a rich mantle of prayer. Second, there is the homage of passers-by, the taste for acclamation and applause, the enjoyment of the venerable fear of others. Third, once you enter the synagogue, there is a place of honor for the scribes in front of the shrine where the rolls of the Law were kept. The scribes have the invitation to first place in the banquet, as a sign of respect for the well-established. Finally, they were hierarchically depicted in the moment of prayer: ready to flaunt holiness, immersed in long invocations, but in practical reality are unapproachable and unreachable. It is precisely to this hypocritical face that Jesus promised “a more serious sentence”.
Jesus lifted the veil of that false religiosity and revealed what lurks in those hearts and what God is really able to see: “whitewashed sepulchers, very beautiful on the outside, but inside full of dead bones and filthiness” (Mt 23:27). This disease of false religiosity infects all spiritual experiences in equal measure, and it is with a humble and sincere heart that we must remember that this accusation also falls on us Christians. But Jesus is not content with condemning, he also wants to show a positive portrait of the perfect believer. And he does so in the next, intense sketch of the poor and generous widow.
In the area of the Temple of Jerusalem there was a room called the treasure that had “trumpets” on the outside into which the coins of the offerings were slipped. It is obvious, therefore, that this was the occasion for a “holy” contest of generosity, naturally admired and applauded by the present public. The offerings of the poor are welcomed with hastiness, disregard, and indifference. In the case recorded by Jesus, a miserable widow is on the scene. She has only two Coins, in Greek “pennies”, whose value is compared by Mark for the use of his Roman readers, with the “quadrant”. A figure that highlights the bitter poverty of women. It has been pointed out by many commentators that, by donating both coins, the widow in the eyes of the evangelist becomes an emblem of total generosity because she could have kept at least one of the two coins. Here then is the profound meaning of that gesture which Jesus immediately exalts by presenting her as the true model to imitate. The humble and simple spirituality of the poor stands in front of the rhetorical religiosity of the scribes; faced with the almost “economic” setting of a religion that generates success, esteem, prestige, the generous and total faith that consecrates one’s entire life is opposed.
Therefore, God’s unit of measurement is very different from that of men. From a financial point of view, two coins are nothing compared to the substantial contributions of the rich; from the religious point of view those small coins, given with the heart and with total deprivation, are a sign of love and become more precious in the eyes of God than any treasure. But there is also another emphasis that Jesus makes explicit with the phrase: she contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.” she gave everything she had to live. It is the celebration of trust and hope, the typical virtues of the poor who do not base their security on material goods but only on divine providence. She gave all she possessed, certain of the promise of Christ: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all other things will be added on to you.” (Mt 6:33). We should never be so preoccupied about tomorrow, we must learn to hope, to love and to entrust ourselves whole and entire to divine providence.
Fr. Jude Chijioke