32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – November 11, 2018
Saint Margaret Mary – Wichita, KS
1 Kings 17:10-16; Psalm 146:7-10; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44
Saturday mornings are probably my favorite part of the week. And they are my favorite because when I was growing-up they were the time when my other siblings and I got to work with my dad around the house. We would get up early and go to 8:00 a.m. mass, come home and have breakfast, and then spend the rest of the morning working around the house or the yard. One of the projects we did on those mornings was to plant several hundred trees on our property. I grew-up on ten acres, and so there was plenty of space to plant. If you go visit my parents’ house, the first thing you notice are the very large pine trees, most of which I “helped“ plant. Another favorite was when we would fix the roof, because as a six year old getting to climb onto the roof is pretty awesome.
When I got older, I found out what was really going on: turns out that my dad didn’t really need my help for those project after all; he didn’t need my help. And that may sound mean—why would a father force his kids to work if they didn’t need to do it in the first place?—but really, my “help” was about something much deeper. My dad could easily have done those projects by himself, and now that I think about it, he probably could have done them much better and much more quickly by himself. But by letting me work with him, by letting me “help” even though my help was very small and practically useless, he allowed me to be with him. We were able to share our lives, to work together, to be together. He could share his life with me and I could share mine with him.
This is what our Gospel passage is getting at today. Jesus is at the Temple treasury watching people put in their coins, their tithe. And some people are putting in large amounts of money, and some others not so much. But there is one person who catches his eye: this poor widow who puts in two small coins. Here is a woman, a widow, a nobody, with no money. And yet she is the one Jesus points out. Why? Because she gets it. She realizes that it is not about what she gives or how much she gives, but about giving it all to the Lord, recklessly sharing her entire life with the Lord, just like a child. Because she knows that He will give her more than she could ever ask or imagine.
As I got older, as a teenager—and I’m sure you parents will be shocked by this—I did not like helping my dad with the work anymore. Sure, I would help every once and a while, or when he forced me to, or when I wanted to ask to go out later that evening. But I no longer saw it as an honor or a privilege to be able to help my dad. I saw it as a burden, as something I had to do. I had other things to do with my time and energy. I was too important to help my dad. But, by doing this, I missed the very reason that my dad wanted me to help in the first place: to share our lives, to work together, to be together. And instead of being so happy and joyful just to spend time with my dad, I became angry and resentful about it, or I did it because it might benefit me.
This is the the other attitude Jesus is criticizing in our Gospel. The widow is giving everything she has, even though, practically speaking, it is useless. But the others, those who are wealthy, they give because they have to give, or because it makes them look good, or because they want to ask a favor. And because of it, they have missed the point altogether. They have forgotten that it is not about what they give or how much they give, but about giving it all to the Lord, recklessly sharing their entire life with the Lord, just like children.
It seems counter-intuitive! As we grow up, we have this idea that we will be happier and more satisfied the more that we hold onto the things we like, the more money we have, the more control we have over every part of our life. When really, just like when I was a child, the greatest joy came from simply sharing in life with my dad. It wasn’t about the work or my “help”; those were just the opportunities to share in my life.
The Lord doesn’t need anything from us. But he desperately wants to give us everything, he desperately wants to share his life with us, the fullness of life! Just like my dad, just like he didn’t need my help, he still asked for it because it was then that he could share his life with me and I could share my life with him. This is what it is about, this is what our Lord is highlighting in our Gospel today! The Lord wants to give us the fullness of life, he wants us to become fully alive, but he can only do this if we allow him, if we are first willing to share our life with him, if we first entrust our entire life into his hands.
At this mass, and at every mass, this is what we have the opportunity to do. We have the opportunity to place our lives in his hands, to renew our covenant with him as he renews his covenant with us. On this altar is his sacrifice, his death on the cross, him giving everything so that he can share his life with us. Here today, once again, we have the opportunity to place our lives in his hands.