09 June 2012

An extravagant poverty

9th Week OT (S)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

This morning, we hear Jesus condemn false religiosity and praise genuine charity. The scribes, replete in their liturgical garments, “devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers.” However, one of those widows—perhaps her house had been devoured?—“came [to the temple] and put in two small coins worth a few cents.” Contrasting the two scenes, Jesus says of the scribes, “They will receive a very severe condemnation.” About the widow he says, “I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury.” What's the difference btw the contributions of the scribes and the widow to the temple? All but the widow gave from their surplus wealth. The widow gave from her poverty. Charity is never about the amount, the quantity that we give. It's all about the source, the origin of what we give. What do we love most? Are we willing to sacrifice it for the good of another? Think about the question this way: when you give—time, talent, treasure—why do you give? Obligation? Guilt? Habit? Love? Sacrifice? A desire to be seen giving? Let's expand the question and ask: when you share your faith, give witness to Christ, why do you share? Why do you testify? Obligation? Habit? Love? 

 The most valuable asset of any follower of Christ is his/her experience of being delivered from the slavery of sin; his/her experience of growing in holiness through working with the Holy Spirit. Most of us would likely confess to a spiritual poverty that borders on destitution. If you're not being prideful in order to appear humble, you might honestly believe that you are unworthy to say two words about our life in Christ. I'm a sinner. Who am I to talk to someone else about my life on the Way? They should go talk to a priest or a sister, someone who's qualified to contribute to their spiritual treasury. I'm spiritually poor; I'm broke! I got nothing to give. Now, what was it that Jesus says about the widow's contribution? “. . .this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. . . she [gave] from her poverty. . .[she] contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.” Her two cents counts as a million dollars b/c she reaches into her near empty purse and gives what little she has, everything she has. The amount, the quality of your charity, your witness is not what counts. What counts in the treasury of heaven is the source, the origin of your contribution, your witness to Christ. If all you have is just two words and you give them out of love to someone who needs them, then those two words are a gift beyond measure. 

If you need additional encouragement to make a sacrificial witness to Christ, listen again to Paul writing to Timothy, “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus. . .be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. . .be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry.” What exactly is your ministry as a follower of Christ? As a priest, prophet, and king in virtue of your baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ, you sacrifice and intercede for others; you discern and follow God's will; and you govern yourself and your household with righteousness. Your ministry is to be Christ for others in the world. And you fulfill your ministry by being and doing all that Christ himself is and does. From the poverty of your holiness, pour out holiness; from the poverty of your wisdom, pour out wisdom; from the poverty of your blessings, pour out blessings. The more you pour out, the greater your capacity to receive all the Father's graces. All that we are and all that we possess is a gift, freely given to us by God. None of it belongs to us. Not our lives, our children, our homes, none of it. We are merely storehouses, temporary shelters for the infinite blessings of Love. Contribute, share, witness, empty yourself out for Christ's sake, and be filled over and over again. 

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1 comment:

  1. Overall, I enjoyed this one and found it to be encouraging. The beginning was a little slow to get started, and I wasn't fond of the aside: "perhaps her house had been devoured"; I felt that took away from the flow and didn't really fit. Once you started talking about charity, though, the homily picked up steam and was quite good from there to the end.

    I really like the method of asking questions - in the little parish I belong to people would probably start answering them OUT LOUD during the homily(that is always fun!), but I enjoy how they make one think. Certainly, in this particular homily it was quite effective to ask the questions. And the ending was strong, especially the "From the poverty of...pour out....". That tied everything together and built to a satisfying and joyful ending.

    And a favor? My older son is receiving his first Holy Communion today (June 10). If you receive this prior to 3pm your time, could you say a pray for him? He has made the decision on his own that kneeling is the proper way to receive, even though that is not the custom here. He sees Christ, and that seems to be all he is focused on - and for a 13 year old boy, I find that to be pretty amazing! (I am a recent revert, so the "timing" of the sacraments is a bit off for my boys, and with no religious ed program here, Mom is the purveyor of all things spiritual.)

    Thank you, and God bless.