07 November 2009

A CHEWING GUM FOR ME, A TREASURE FOR GOD

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mk 12:38-44


In the gospel, scribes are lawyers. Usually, lawyers try the accused. But today, they are the accused.

Jesus accuses the scribes. He criticizes them because they love to parade in their long robes, they hunger for people’s adulation, they scramble for the places of honor in the synagogues and special seats in banquets, and they show off their piety by reciting long prayers for people to hear and notice. But, most of all, they exploit widows: they live on whatever widows have for their livelihood. Jesus’ judgment on the scribes is heavy: the punishment for them will be more severe than for those whom they easily dismiss as law-breakers.

If, indeed, they live on widows’ livelihood, Jesus has the best witness against them. Jesus turns the table against the scribes by the mite of a widow.

In the Temple, the court for women has thirteen trumpet-shaped collection boxes into which people drop their contribution for the operational expenses of the House of God. Those who offer sizeable amounts are many. And while some flaunt the value of their offering, a poor widow arrives quietly, humbly approaches a collection box, and gladly offers her two cents. In the arithmetic of God’s kingdom, the poor widow’s offering is worth more than the offerings of many. Why? For, while many give from their surplus, she gives all that she has. She gives everything. Two cents is all that she has.

Two cents – that is all that she has to live on. She could have said, “O Yahweh, this is all that I have: two cents. But I’ll share it with You: one for You, one for me. There it is, fair and just between you and me.” But, no. Her generosity is reckless. Her offering, prodigal. For the world she is plainly crazy. But for Jesus, true generosity is measured not by what we give but by what is left with us after we have given. Nothing is left with that poor widow after she made her offering. Her offering is most pleasing to God among the many other offerings. She has nothing to offer anymore. She already offered everything she had.

In the gospel of Mark, this story about the poor widow is rightfully placed. It illustrates beautifully what Jesus will do to Himself – He will give everything as an offering to God. When He finishes giving, nothing more will be left for Him to give. He will offer everything. He will offer to everyone. That is the kind of piety Jesus has. Is that not the Eucharist? And, for us, disciples of Jesus, the Eucharist is the source and summit, the beginning and end of life.

Jesus hopes that His disciples would take the cue from His example of true holiness, and not from the scribes who hunger for the adulation that people give. He hopes that we, His disciples, would strive to imitate His generosity with anything we have – be it time, talent, or treasure.

We are challenged to offer not from our abundance but from our substance. We must feel the pain in our giving, for unless we do, the motive behind our giving can really be questionable.

Does our offering have substance or do we give right and left simply because we so much? And our “so much” here reads “extra”. Do we not catch our selves saying, “I’ll give this before it rots,” “I’ll offer this now less it spoils,” “The expiration date is still next week, I might as well bring this to church tomorrow for the offertory”? Open your cabinets and boxes at home, and see if many of their contents you do not use anyway. Those things are not yours anymore. Give them away. That pair of shoes you never use is stolen from the barefooted. That food you throw away is stolen from the table of the hungry. That clothing you once said you would be able to wear someday – when will that “someday” be? Do you weigh less today than when you first said that “someday”? What is that one year old, unused signature shirt doing in your closet? It is staring at you while you lament over your figure for the last five years!

This is what it means to give from our substance: to give not from our surplus but even from our limited resources. The point of reference here is not our extras but the needs that others have and for which we can sacrifice. And this is what it means to be like Jesus: give not only from your substance; give, rather, your very substance. Another name for this is “dying to one’s self”. That certainly hurts. It does always hurt because after giving we fell that indeed we have nothing anymore. But Christian spirituality has nothing to do with any sacrifice, except one: the sacrifice that gives life. And giving as Jesus gives is life-giving sacrifice.

Each day we face the challenge of being disciples of Jesus. We are called to be generous in our love, forgiveness, patience, compassion, time, talent, and treasure. Yet, it is not enough to give. Our gift must be substantial – substantial because we give nothing less than our very self. When we do this with sincere love, Jesus supports us and, like the other widow in the first reading today, we should not fear seeing our jars empty because we trust in the fatherly providence of God. He takes care of those who hopes and trust in Him.

When I was a little boy, I could buy two Texas, a favorite chewing gum back then, for one cent only. Now that I am a priest, one cent can buy nothing at all. Perhaps, sari-sari stores do not even sell Texas anymore. But in the gospel, there was, there is, and there will always be that one poor widow who gives more than what the others give to the Temple: her two cents. That would be four chewing gums for me, thirty-five years ago! But two cents can already be a treasure for God.

5 Comments:

At 11:59 PM , Blogger sharon reyes said...

".. offer not from our abundance but from our substance, our very substance.."
i have always been amazed on how you deliver your homilies father, and much more feeling in awe when the "substance" of it reveals the essential meaning of all the readings and subsequently applied to everything else around us.
more power father. im glad i found your blog.
best regards.

 
At 5:11 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember watching a TV program wherein the guest quoted a saying from Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta-"Give until it hurts.".

Well said Fr. Bob.
Peace!

 
At 8:10 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Father Bob!

I attended the Saturday mass you officiated and this homily really did hit us all. I'm laughing at myself,yes....we usually find ourselves comprising at what we are going to give.Lagi tayong nanghihinayang sa mga bagay na puede naman nating ibigay at pakinabangan ng iba.

God loves a generous giver!

Oh yes Fr. Bob, it is really good that St. Joseph the Worker Parish will have its own website, it would help us a lot most especially when we are doing our research works about our parish.

Thanks and God bless you always!

 
At 5:08 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suggest that the website be known as www.sanjosedemanuguit.com
to distinguish it from other parishes with same patron.

Please include materials about St. Joseph in the upcoming website.

Father Bob, please include your Gospel reflections in the upcoming website.

Thank you and God Bless!

 
At 5:08 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suggest that the website be known as www.sanjosedemanuguit.com
to distinguish it from other parishes with same patron.

Please include materials about St. Joseph in the upcoming website.

Father Bob, please include your Gospel reflections in the upcoming website.

Thank you and God Bless!

 

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