7th November, 2021

Wallet with coins

Homily for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

I hope you will agree with me if I say that the ‘key word’ of today’s readings is the word ‘generosity’, and of course it is about the generosity of the two widows we heard about in the first reading from the Book of Kings and also in the Gospel according to Mark. We don’t know the names of these two women, and we do not know any other details about their private lives except that one of them had a son. But if we listened to these readings attentively, and if we look at these two widows carefully, we will see that they have something in common. In a way they are very similar to each other, especially in terms of their incredible generosity but also in terms of their great trust in God. The first of them showed her great kindness and hospitality to the prophet Elijah when she offered him very simple and modest meal, which was bread and water, but – as we heard further – for this little act of kindness, she was rewarded – we would say – miraculously rewarded by God. As the first reading says: The jar of meal was not spent nor the jug of oil emptied, just as the Lord had foretold through Elijah.

As you could see, the first part of the Gospel was not easy and pleasant to listen to, and I don’t think that is just my impression. None of us like criticism and none of us like it if someone points out the weaknesses of other people, so we can easily imagine that it must have been extremely difficult and even painful for the scribes to listen to what Jesus said about them publicly and quite openly: Beware of the scribes… these are the men who swallow the property of widows, while making a show of lengthy prayers. The more severe will be the sentence they receive.

In the second part of the Gospel, we heard something much more positive, and I am sure it will be much easier for us to apply this particular teaching of Jesus in our daily lives. As we heard, Jesus drew the attention of his apostles to people who put money into the treasury and showed them two completely different attitudes: the attitude of the rich people, and then the attitude of the poor widow who – in a sense – has become the protagonist of today’s Gospel and also a good example for us to follow. I think at this stage we can ask ourselves a simple question: What is the main message of today’s readings, and what would God like to inspire us with today? I am convinced that God always appreciates every act of our generosity, not only this generosity when it comes to our money and our contribution to the Church, or when we share something with the poor and needy, or when we support CAFOD or our local Soup Kitchen or many other charitable works and initiatives. I am sure this Gospel is not just about money, and it certainly doesn’t encourage us to increase our contribution to the church, or to increase our standing orders, or to put more money into the collection basket, or perhaps to sign a ‘Gift Aid’ declaration if we are tax payers. No! We don’t have to give anyone our last penny as the widow did. Money is not the most important point of this Gospel, because the main message of this passage is much deeper and much more beautiful than we can imagine.

These two small coins we heard about today, I am sure each of us have them somewhere, maybe not in our wallets and pockets, but hidden somewhere deep in our hearts. And we too – like this poor widow – can offer them to God or to our brothers and sisters in need, no matter how rich and wealthy we are. These two coins – this can be our time, especially when we are short of time, and when our lives are extremely busy with work, family matters, and many other responsibilities and activities that we have to do. These two small coins – it can be our smile or maybe two smiles, especially when we are in a bad mood or angry at something or someone, and even if it is difficult for us to be nice and kind to others. These two coins – it could be a simple phone call or two calls a week to our parents, friends, neighbours and very simple assurance: Please remember that you can always rely on me, if you need anything, please don’t hesitate to let me know. Perhaps some of us have much more time than others to spend with God in private prayer, in adoration, or to go to Mass very often, even several times a week. For some it is very hard to get here even once a month. Some of us, including myself, go to church almost every day which is a very good thing, and we can compare ourselves to all these rich people mentioned in the Gospel. Jesus didn’t say anything negative about them, he didn’t criticize them, but in this particular context he showed his apostles a much better example. We would say he showed them an example of perfect generosity. She from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.

If in our extremely busy lives we do our best to find time for God and for others, if we do our best to find time for Mass, private prayer, reading the Bible, confession, adoration, then we are like that poor widow in today’s Gospel. If we do our best to find five or even two minutes a day for God, then these two minutes are like two small coins which in God’s eyes are something much more than we can imagine, they are like an extremely valuable treasure. May these beautiful examples of the two widows inspire us to be even more inventive and generous to God especially when it comes to our time, our piety and our dedication to Him and to others.

Fr Gregory