Giving With Faith
Father Hanly’s beautiful homily for 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, is about giving from your whole heart in faith.
Readings for Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
- First Reading: First Kings 17:10-16
- Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 146:7, 8-9, 9-10
- Second Reading: Hebrews 9:24-28
- Gospel: Mark 12:38-44 or 12:41-44
This is a very short parable. When I started thinking about how to address it or what to say about it, I found myself getting longer and longer (chuckles). And then hearing it again, I realised that the message is very short.
We think, perhaps, that the message is one thing, but the message is not what we think first.
Because when we hear both of these stories …
The first is Elijah the Prophet. Elijah the Prophet was in the 9th Century BC, a long, long time ago, and it was a time of great conflict.
He was running away from Ahab, the king, because his wife, Jezebel, was trying to kill him for calling the Israelites away from the Canaanite gods and to return to their one and true God.
And so it was that he fled all the way up into Sidon, up where the Phoenicians come from, those great seamen of yesteryear.
There’s a little note here: the Phoenicians gave us the alphabet — a, b, c, d — so every time you say or write down English or many of the other languages, we are very grateful to the Phoenicians who some ten centuries BC, worked it all out for us.
Anyhow, he comes at a time of great famine and there was no food in Israel. And so he had gone up to Sidon to escape Ahab.
As he was entering the city of Sidon, he saw a widow lady and he asked her for a cup of water, and she brought it to him.
Then he asked for something to eat.
And she said, “I’m sorry, sir, but there’s very, very little flour left in my jar and very, very little oil left in my jug. And I have nothing except this. And I’m going to make a little meal for myself and my son, and then we’re going to die.”
Very, very terrible times.
We think these times are just exaggerated from the past, but we have lived through these times in many countries today. And we still live in these times of great want.
It shocked everyone, me anyhow, the United Nations declared a few months ago that one billion people go to bed hungry every night now in this world of ours. So this is something that is very important for us to remember.
Elijah, of course, is a man who trusts in God. And he says to her, “Don’t worry about it.” He said, “You just go and make a little cake for me and then I promise you that…”
And I’d like to read this part, because it’s a wonderful motto:
“For the LORD, the God of Israel, says,
‘The jar of flour shall not go empty,
nor the jug of oil run dry’”
In times when you think that you’ve lost everything, this is the time to write that out and put it in a little sign in the kitchen and it would read: “The Lord has promised you the jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry.”
And so, suddenly, we begin to realise (inaudible), because Elijah stays with this woman for one year, and it’s true, until the rain came, the flour lasted and the oil lasted in the little jar.
Then, of course, we have the second one, The Widow’s Mite. But we understand a little bit more what the author, Mark, and Elijah, were trying to tell the lady, trying to tell her, both of these women.
For the widow comes into the treasury. Now she’s in the inner court of the treasury. The treasury is in the inner court of the very large temple in Jerusalem. And that is where they have these kind of trumpet like things you put your coins in when you come in as your donation to the temple for its upkeep.
And Jesus is sitting there and he sees that she puts in two coins.
They’re not worth really ten cents. It’s less than ten cents, two of these little mites. If you go to Israel some time, they actually have manufactured these little mites, you can buy a whole kind of little bag full of them, but it’s nothing.
And then Jesus calls his disciples to him and he says, “You see all those people putting in the thirteen trumpets all this money and everybody is in awe of it.”
And they kind of nod, yes.
And he says, “This woman has given thousands of more value. More than all that the men and the women have put into the coins in this temple, this woman has given. And she has given them to God.
“And that is because the only thing she had left were the two coins, and she put them in as her gift to God.”
What Jesus is saying is that the gifts that we give to each other, and the things we worry about, have nothing to do with the way God sees us and God sees the world.
Because the message is very, very clear. It is not what you give, it’s does it come from your whole heart in faith.
You see, without faith, the gift means nothing.
Because anybody can give from their plenty, anybody can give from their resources, but it takes a lot of faith to give everything you have away in this wonderful gesture.
And this is what Jesus wants to say: no matter how much money you give, no matter what you give to anyone, if you do not have faith — faith in God, that He will give the love that you feel in your heart to the one that you give the gift to — then it’s an empty gesture, it’s just coinage, it’s just from your surplus.
What he’s really saying is this: the value of the gift is in the heart, and when the heart gives, no matter what the gift is, how great or how small, if the heart gives it, then it is blessed in God’s eyes. So it’s not a matter of money or who has more or that.
But think of this now: Advent is coming. It’s the time for Christmas and we’re all thinking of Christmas and we’re all thinking of presents and going out and what are we going to give, etc, etc.
All very fine things, because we are welcoming the birth of the Child.
But what God is saying is, when you give those gifts, you must give yourself, you must give your heart, because it is the sacrifice in your heart that you give, and that is where God is to be found, and that is where God’s generosity is to be found.
There’s an old saying which is kind of nice. When I was a young man, my mother used to say…
I’d say, “Do you want me to make a lot of money when I grow up?” you know.
And she said, “No, that’s not necessary.”
And then we began talking about money and she said, “I never met a man who felt he had enough. No matter how poor or how rich he was, he never felt that he really had enough. Maybe a just little bit more, you know? Just a little bit more here, little bit more there, but never … Always …”
God says the little lady who gave everything away, she understood. To give, you don’t have to have anything, because God’s love will provide.
You say, “Well, this is kind of to be questioned.”
No, it isn’t. It isn’t.
We start giving in this sense, we start loving in this sense, when we realise it does not depend on coinage or things we have or demanding something in return. We give from a loving heart to the one who we care about.
This is the kind of love that Jesus had.
What did he have on the cross to give?
They took everything away, including his clothes, including his reputation. He had nothing to offer. It wasn’t the time to come singing songs and applauding and “Here comes the Lord” and all of this.
He had nothing to offer but his life.
And he offered it to his Father.
And how much value do we place on Jesus at the moment, stripped of everything, when he gave himself in love for our salvation and our healing and because he knew his Father only wanted one thing and that is our love.
So think about the widow’s mite.
She wasn’t so generous, because she understood.
If I give God everything, I just place myself in His hands and in His mercy, let Him take care of me, what will happen?
You say, “Nothing.”
Ah, but you’re wrong.
Because what the disciples learned at the breaking of the bread, what they learned when they fed five thousand people with just a few loaves of bread, it’s only when you begin giving that there’s enough.
But as long as you are taking and hoarding it, there will always be, “Well, not quite enough. Maybe a little bit more…”
So I think the message in this is not one of economics, it’s of spirit.
What God says is, “When you let go of everything, then you are ready to give,” because you’ll be giving the love, the faith that God has in you, to your brothers and sisters.
And only this is the gift, because this is the gift that Jesus gives to his Father and saves the world.