Homily: Deacon Terry Ellerman
Blessed Sacrament Parish
November 11, 2012 - 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
10 AM Service
Our first reading from the Book of Kings and our Gospel reading from Mark, talk to us about trust, talk to us about dependency on God, talk to us about the need for giving but making a distinction between giving from our surplus and giving from our need. In our first reading today from the Book of Kings we see a widow, and the widow is picking up sticks when along comes the prophet Elijah. Elijah looks at her and asks, “Will you get me a drink of water?” As she turns to go he also asks, “Would you bring me some bread - a cake?”
She looks at him and says, “We only have a little flour and a little oil. Matter of fact, this is going to be our last meal because my child and I are going to die of starvation.”
And he says to her, “Do as you had planned, but before that bring me a little bread.” And she did. Elijah then said to her, “The Lord God has blessed you. Because of that, that bread will never run out, and the oil will never run dry.” Then for the next year they had plenty to eat. Trust in God.
We also need to remember that a widow living during the time of Christ meant that you would be living in poverty, because the person who made the livelihood, and was going to care for you, was the man. Unless you had family or friends to help take care of you, you would be living in poverty.
At the time of Elijah, it was even worse because there was no rain, and a drought and a famine was going on. There was no food for a lot of people. So imagine what that might do. It was similar to the time we have now economically - when in our country there are many people who have very little money and need to go to shelters.
Then in our Gospel reading we see another widow. This time Jesus is saying to the disciples and the crowd, “You know, there are people who are wealthy who put on airs, who want to live and be seen in the best places, and who don't really care about anyone but themselves - very egotistical people.”
Jesus then goes into the temple and sits and watches people as they put money into the moneybox. He sees the wealthy people putting in large amounts of money. Then he sees the poor widow come in who has nothing - and she puts in two small coins worth less than a penny. Jesus then calls his disciples together and asks, “Who has given the most?”
Well, there was no question the rich people put in more money. But who truly sacrificed and gave from the heart? In this case, it was the widow.
There is a story about a little boy who was standing outside a church one Sunday morning. This took place 60 or 70 years ago in the middle of winter. The snow was flying, there was ice on the ground and it was bitterly cold. He was there to sell papers. But because it was so cold people were hurrying into the church and no one was stopping to buy any papers. So the little boy decided to go inside the church.
He thought, “If I go into the church I will sit in the back pew and at least I can keep warm.”
So he went into the church and sat in the last pew and during the service he listened to the homily. The priest talked about the goodness of God and the fact that God created us and loves us. The priest told how God sent his son to die for us, and that it is important that we take care of one another.
After the homily was over, the ushers took up the collection. When they got to the back pew here was this little boy, and the usher held the basket in front of him. The little boy paused for a minute. Then he looked at the usher and said to him, “Would you put the basket on the floor?”
Then the boy put his little foot in the basket, and then his other foot. Tears came down his eyes and he cried, “I'm sorry. I don't have any money to give to God. But I listened to the sermon and I listened to how much God truly loves me and loves all of us - and what I want to do is to give myself to him.”
We all are called to be that little boy. We are all called to be that person who is willing to give ourself to God - to give not just money - but also our time, our efforts, and our talents. We're called to make a difference.
Is there anything wrong with giving surplus money? No. Is there anything wrong with giving surplus time that we have? No. But the point of the Gospel is this - if you really, really want to give - you give from your heart, you give from your poverty, and you give from your need.
Bryon and Mindy know, and many parents, because parents are instinctively selfless. You both know that when Asher cries he needs something and you instinctively do something. You don't sit in bed and say, “Well, he's going to be OK.” Even though you want to sleep, even though you may want to do lots of other things, Asher comes first.
Parenthood is a great example of sacrifice, and those needs of sacrifice tell who we are. Because when there is a need - we do it. And it doesn't make any difference. We give, not of our surplus, but we give of our need because that is important. That is what the Gospel is about today and the First Reading. We are to be people who care about one another.
We need to be people who are not just looking at our surplus, but we need to be people who look at giving when sometimes it's not easy to give. And we need to be people who are giving when sometimes we think we don't have it to give. And we need to be people who are willing to take care of someone else when maybe we really don't want to. We do this because it is when we sacrifice that we truly give of ourselves, and we truly give of our hearts. That is what makes the difference.
So today we all need to ask ourselves: Yes, we do a lot of giving. Yes, we do a lot of caring and volunteering. But is there more we can, and should, do? Like we do for our own children, are there times when we give from our heart - and not just from our surplus?
Terry Ellerman is a retired educator and serves as a deacon at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Quincy, Illinois.