HOMILY FOR THE 32ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Readings: 1 Kings 17:10-16/Heb. 9:24-28
Psalm: 146: 7-10
Gospel: Mk. 12:38-44
These past months we have been inundated with what can be nicely stated as “information overload.” Many people and many groups have used the press, television, the internet and word-of-mouth to spread a message of who is good and who is bad. Over and over again we heard these messages to the point that we could not tell what is true or what is false. We just wanted them to stop so now we can fixate on the bombardment of Christmas commercials just before Thanksgiving.
When you saw those commercials, what did you think was the singular message? When it comes down to it, the one message all of these commercials was is that everyone should stand with just the one candidate that is the best. But all that it did was take a message of unity and divide us even more than when things began. Just recently I have been seeing a meme on Facebook that treats those of us living in Illinois like we are survivors of some horrific massacre like Las Vegas or Charleston or Pittsburgh just because of the outcome of this election. It is as if no one wants to be courteous with someone who thinks a different way than you do. The definition of compromise has changed from meeting someone halfway to agreeing with everything that I say.
It can be rather hard to find that voice of reason, especially in a group that seems determined to separate themselves from the masses and show themselves to be better than everyone else and have the authority to tell everyone else how to behave. So when that voice is found, it can be confusing to distinguish one from the other. So it might seem confusing to hear the Gospel proclaimed today compared to the one proclaimed previously. Last week, Jesus confronted a Scribe who wanted Jesus to answer his question on which was the greatest commandment. When the scribe agreed with the answer, Jesus told him he was not far from the Kingdom of God. But yet this week, Jesus condemns the entire group for their actions. He says that the Scribes wear long robes, take seats of honor at the synagogues and banquets, devour the houses of widows and recite lengthy prayers to make them look holier than thou. It was really getting on his nerves, but why?
Mainly it was because the Scribes were the ones who were charged to interpret the Law of Moses and teach it to their Jewish brothers. Scribes believed that the Law was the exact meaning of God’s will, which was expressed in harsh rituals that put an undue burden on others. It got to the point that their actions became more of enforcement than one of education. A prime example of that is a little snippet of Mark’s Gospel between last week and this week. Jesus posed a question to the crowds that were listening to him in the Temple. The question pertained to an interpretation of the phrase “Son of David” in regards to the identity of the Messiah. It was stated in 2 Samuel that God would deliver a King from the line of David that would lead Israel for all time. It was that thinking that many scribes took to mean that the Messiah would come from the line of David. So, if that was the case, then why in Psalm 110, a poem that was understood to be written by David himself, would he call his son “Lord?” (Mk. 12: 35-37) A father would not give his son a title superior to his own. So, Jesus posed, why does everyone believe that the Messiah would come from an earthly kingdom and not a heavenly one? And why should the scribes, who are supposed to know this, not understand the contradiction? Jesus could only look at them and shake his head.
Then to make matters worse for the Scribes, Jesus looks up and see a widow place two small coins in treasury, while many of the rich were putting in large sums. While this passage has had many views, the point that this woman gave of her need rather than the rich who gave of their excess was only to put an exclamation point on his disdain of the Scribes. They saw this as a matter of obedience. She did it as a matter of devotion: not to the Scribes view of the Law, but to God. She was emulating the widow in the First Reading today from the First Book of Kings (17:10-16). The widow was afraid that if she made a cake for Elijah, she would not have enough for her and her son to eat before they would starve to death. But the prophet assured her that if she did what was asked of her, she and her son would not go hungry. This simple act of devotion to God’s Prophet enabled the widow and her son to come closer to God, while the widow in the Gospel would only see her donation put a wedge between her and the Scribes for taking her money and using it on themselves and not for the work of God.
One cannot call themselves a Child of God and deny other Children their birthright. We may not behave in the same way, nor do we have the same ideals as each other, but that does not mean that each path is less correct than any other. This past week, Pope Francis, in speaking with a delegation of Jewish leaders, proclaimed that it is impossible for someone to call themselves a Christian and yet endorse anti-Semitism. He said that “it would be a contradiction of faith and life” to be a Christian and an anti-Semite because of the shared roots each one has. One cannot proclaim the tenets of their faith at the same time deny others theirs because of who they are or how they believe. That division can only come from a lack of knowledge or intellectual laziness.
We hear something or read something and think it is true, until we do some research and find out that we had been wrong the entire time. When we hear someone, we expect that what they say is true, particularly if the information is of a relatively sensitive nature. And yet rather than confirm it, we tend to pass it off as true and perhaps embellish a bit to make us seem important. But Jesus is asking us to search for the truth, because unless we do that, our lives, the lives of others and of our society will fall apart. We have to go to the source to find the truth so that the things we see or hear afterwards can be confirmed or denied.
Where do we find the truth? We find it in Christ; the direct source. It was he who said “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.” Everything else is a translation of that truth. Christ is asking each one of us to look beyond the headlines and second-hand sources and locate that truth that allows us to live as he wants us so that our society can thrive as he wants. It may take a little work on our part, but the knowledge that we gain will stay with us for a lifetime; and no commercial or speech or internet craze will deter us from searching for that truth.
Much like the two widows, we must be willing to give everything we have in order to gain the wealth of Heaven. All it takes is to know, love and live the Greatest Commandment and base our lives upon its proper application. It is then, when we love God with all our heart, mind and soul; and then love our neighbors as ourselves can we end the divisions we have with each other and again become one family in the eyes of God.
MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND ALL THAT YOU DO THIS WEEK