Homily for November 8

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Homily for the Thirty-second Sunday of Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

I wonder if the story in the first reading
about the widow who shared her last meal with Elijah
(who’s a complete stranger to her) 
I wonder if that story strikes some of us as unbelievable
-or even fabricated, to teach a lesson.

The story clearly reveals a trust and generosity
beyond what many of us might offer in similar circumstances.
I’ll have to admit that it’s a story that makes me wonder, too.

But just last week I happened across a short video (below)
which seemed a contemporary version of just such a story.

One of a series of videos on interaction with homeless persons.
This one was filmed across the street
from where a homeless man was sitting on the sidewalk, by a fence.
He was just sitting there, not panhandling.
(In the video we learn that the homeless man’s name is Mark.)

Another man, Karim, a companion of the videographer,
approaches Mark and offers him some unsolicited folding money.
After accepting it and thanking Karim,
Mark invites him to sit for a while.
Then, after a few moments of conversation,
Mark gets up and says to Karim,
 “Just wait a few minutes – I’ll be right back!”  And he takes off.
Pretty soon, Mark returns
- with 2 take out containers of fried chicken,
one for Karim and one for himself
– and they share a meal there, sitting on the sidewalk together.

Try to imagine what that money meant to Mark.
My guess is that it was a 10 or a 20 dollar bill.
Clearly, Karim had given him enough for at least two meals
but Mark was willing, in fact he wanted, to share what he had 
- with a complete stranger.

Something just like this is the message in the widow’s story
in today’s first reading.
And then there’s the widow in the gospel story.
She has only a few cents to give to the temple
but she gives from her want, from her need,
- from the bottom of her purse.
She gave even less than the change
you and I might toss into a tip jar
or on the bureau when we empty our pockets at day’s end.
But that, says Jesus, was a more generous donation
than the many who gave so much more –
but without feeling the pinch.

Of course all of this is not so much about money
as it is about the generosity to which we’re all called
to love one another and to give generously of ourselves:
of our time and our talents,
to family, neighbor and community.

Giving until we feel the pinch... 

Giving of what we have - until our giving truly leaves us feeling
the absence, the lack, the loss, the sacrifice
of what we’ve given.

Both the widow in Elijah’s story and Mark in Karim’s video
gave more than they could afford to give.
Jesus calls every one of us to love with a generosity beyond 
what we think we can afford to share
of who we are and what we have.

And the measure for this kind of giving
isn’t the widows’ generosity or Mark’s.
Nor is the measure something our bookkeeper or financial advisor
might be able to calculate for us.

The measure for such generosity
is the love that hung on the Cross for us
and hangs over our prayer every time we gather at this altar.

The reward of the widow’s generosity
was a jar of flour that did not go empty
and a jug of oil that didn’t run dry – for a year –
until the rains came again.

For Karim, the reward was not the warm feeling of doing a good deed,
but the benefit and companionship of Mark’s generosity.
Who knows what might be our rewards, yours and mine,
were we to give of our selves until we feel the pinch,
the loss, the sacrifice of what we’ve given.

The scriptures and the video tell a very simple story.
The hard part is translating that story into our own lives, this week,
even as we begin to prepare for Thanksgiving and Christmas,
times when we’ll be asked to open our hearts and our wallets
to the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the imprisoned –
all complete strangers to us.

What will be the measure of our generosity
when we respond to the seasonal invitations we receive
– to be generous.

For now, we go to the Lord’s Table where, every week,
the Lord gives us again all that he has to give:
his Body broken for us, his Blood poured out for us
in the gift of the Eucharist.

May what the Lord shares with us so generously
move our hearts to give as generously,
to give until we know the absence, the lack, the loss, the sacrifice
-the pinch-  of what we have given. 


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