Homily for Mass – Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, Ottawa

Saturday, 10 November 2012 – 4.15pm

[Readings: 1 Kings 17:10-16;  Ps 146;  Heb 9:24-28;  Mk 12:38-44]

Because of the attentive watch of Jesus, the actions of a poor widow, placing two small coins into the Temple treasury, have been immortalized as an icon of the Gospel.  The monetary value of what she gave was practically nil: the equivalent of one sixty-fourth of a poor man’s daily wage at the time.  And yet, Jesus highlights that her action was heroic because it was all she had.  She kept nothing back.

The widow of the first reading had enough food to last her and her son one more day, before would die of starvation.  And yet, despite the fact that she wasn’t a Jew, she responds to the visiting prophet and feeds him first.

Both of these women point to God.  They remind us that God did not hold anything back, not even his own Son whom he sent to bring us back to him.  They point to Jesus who – in the same way – held nothing back in his obedience to His Father’s plan – he allowed his very life to be poured out “to remove sin.”

These widows are contrasted with the scribes in the Gospel – people who appear to give a lot – making a show of lengthy prayers, and acting as though they are worthy of great respect.  Jesus marks them out, however, to “receive the greater condemnation.”

These stories highlight for us that what is most important is the purity of our intentions, and our loving generosity.  These are what transform even the smallest things we do into great actions;  actions worthy of the praise of Jesus.

Our readings tonight also remind us that – if we want to be truly free to love God and others – then we need a real detachment from earthly things.  We need a detachment from possessions certainly, but also a detachment from our egos and our pride.

A story is told about Pope Saint Pius X.  Before he was pope, and while he was still the bishop of Mantua, a merchant wrote slanderous things against him. Many friends advised the bishop to sue the slanderer, but the future Pontiff replied: “This poor soul is more in need of prayer than of punishment.”  So he didn’t sue him; instead he prayed for him.
But that wasn’t the end of it;  after a while, this merchant went bankrupt. All his creditors came after him, and he lost everything. Only one person helped him: it was the very same bishop of Mantua who, anonymously, sent him an envelope with some money, saying that it was coming from the most Compassionate Lady, that is, from Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

As we reflect on the Word of God today, we can consider what we have, and what we give to God and to others – from our time, our skills, talents, abilities, and our possessions.  If we think to ourselves, “well, I give 10% to the Church – that’s pretty good” – it might be good to remember that how we spend the other 90% says as much about our relationship with God and others as the 10%.

In what spirit do we give to others?  Is it given in a spirit of generosity?  Do we consider everything we have as gifts of God?  Do we trust that God will provide for what we need, that God will not be outdone in generosity?

How is the purity of intention in what we do?  Do we act with the aim of sharing God’s love first and foremost, and of living in God’s will in all that we do?

We come tonight to share again in the Eucharistic sacrifice.  In the eucharist we are drawn most especially into Jesus’ complete offering of himself for the salvation of the world.  As we share in this mystery, may he transform us and purify us, so that we can trustingly give completely of ourselves to God and others in everything we do.