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Friday, 9 November 2018

32nd Sunday Year B 2018

32nd. Sunday, Year B

(1 Kings 17:10-16; Hebrews 9:24-28; Saint Mark 12:38-44)


Dear People of God, brothers and sisters in Christ, in our world today too much attention is given to appearances as distinct from reality: ‘ikons’ are loudly proclaimed simply on the basis of popularity and crowd excitement whereas that ‘iconic’ person is necessarily clothed in flesh and blood and uses a human heart and mind, all essentials of real human life, and all of which are totally ignored by popular excitement … the suicidal, the drugged-up, reality is not part of popularity’s worship of the ‘ikon’.   That type of approach to music and entertainment, is real and therefore perhaps inevitable, but it should have no right of admittance to social and political, let alone religious life.  Nevertheless, because popularity calls emotive crowds onto the streets far more quickly than reason can penetrate minds and convert hearts, governments feel the need to present their policies with an appearance that might evoke popularity, which is so important these days that even what is wrong -- when clothed in popularity’s bed-companion ‘notoriety’ -- can win immediate and emotional approval from many.  That state of affairs seems to be the necessary concommitant of what we like to call ‘democracy’, an ideal social system for a relatively small group of thinking people, but far from ideal in a society like ours where numbers and popular excitement threaten to call the changes, not rational appraisal or moral rectitude.

Our Blessed Lord gives us an insight into God’s awareness and appreciation of the difference between appearance and reality which is of supreme importance for us in the spiritual life:

Jesus sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums.   A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents.  Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury.   For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

Who was the poor widow?  We do not know of course … we know nothing other than that she was very poor and very devout.  In order to make her a more real subject for our consideration I would like to compare her with those of today’s Catholic people who feel that they have so very little, indeed nothing, to give to mankind, to offer God.  These people are oppressed secretly by what they think of themselves.  They see themselves  as incapable of doing anything of note or worth, without any social graces: they do not speak well, they cannot express or share emotions sympathetically with others, they have no physical ‘presence’ or bearing, let alone any personal confidence.  They have faults, even sins, which though they would love to be rid of, nevertheless they seem unable to throw them off.  Again, past and confessed sins may still trouble them with feelings of guilt or keep on cropping up again and again as unwanted memories, or as the same old temptations which, though they do their best to resist them, nevertheless keep coming back again and again.   Thus, they find themselves always more or less anxious and worried, spiritually listless, ever hearing in the background of their daily living a voice whispering that the years are passing and they seem to be getting nowhere, whispering ever so slightly but ever so insistently, ‘what is the good of you trying – pretending -- to be a faithful Catholic and good Christian.

Let us now turn our attention to our Blessed Lord and Saviour.

You will remember, People of God, that at the very beginning of His Public Life and Ministry, He was led by the Spirit into the desert where He was tempted by Satan.  The Evangelists give varying descriptions of this time of trial, but the fundamental issue seems to have been that Jesus should show Himself as a political Messiah, a military leader who would lead the oppressed Jewish people in revolt against their Roman masters and set up the standard of the Kingdom of God by political and, if necessary, forceful means.  Jesus, however, was not deceived, and Satan left Him, according to St. Luke’s enigmatic expression, until an opportune time.  Later on, near the end of His successful ministry in Galilee the enthusiastic inhabitants of that area wanted to seize Jesus after His miraculous feeding of the 5,000 in order to set Him at their head as the Messianic King, to lead their army.  Jesus simply escaped their clutches.

Thus, at the beginning of His ministry, at His moment of success in mid-course, and so again, almost at the end of His life’s work, Jesus encountered the same temptation: for less than a week before His death, a thronging crowd in a paroxysm of excitement could be heard proclaiming as He entered Jerusalem:

Hosanna, blessed is He Who comes in the name of the LORD!  The King of Israel!  (John 12:13),

as they waved palm branches and strewed their clothes in His pathway, proclaiming Him as leader and Messiah indeed, but only as such for their political and national aspirations, not for the fulfilment of their role as People of God for the salvation of all mankind.

People of God, we should reject despondency even though it may be that, after many years, we find old temptations and trials raising their heads at times and trying to re-assert themselves.  For Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, though there was no trace of sin whatsoever in Him, nevertheless, we see how the same trial, the same wearisome temptation of the Devil, kept rearing its head through the entire course of His public ministry.  And, on the other hand, we can, in our turn, offer the widow’s mite to the glory of God, if and when -- despite our feelings of wretchedness, despite all temptations to despair – we continue to give our own ALL by never saying ‘yes’ to such temptations …. As St. Gregory the Great taught, ‘the Devil can put all sorts of thoughts into our head, all sorts of feelings into our body, but he cannot make us say ‘Yes’ to any such things.

Our ‘all’, little though it may seem to us – just as the widow’s mite no doubt appeared to her in comparison with the much, much larger offerings of rich donors – our maybe miniscule ‘all’ is, nevertheless, inviolate, purest gold for God’s glory, thanks to our abiding oneness with and in Jesus, and thanks to our enduring obedience to Spirit of Jesus living and ruling within us – never giving a consenting, accepting, ‘Yes’ to the Devil’s solicitations.

It may well be, dear People of God, that as we leave Church today, some go out with deep consolation and deep gratitude for blessings received and acknowledged; but it may also be that others go out, clinging to God, but knowing only thing: that fellowship with Him -- the privilege of knowing Him, His infinite goodness, His incomparable beauty and truth – is all they want, no matter how they have to fight for it.  And it may well be that Our Blessed Lord Himself will say as He sees all of us go our separate ways as His disciples to work for the coming of God’s Kingdom:

Amen I say to you, that poor person has done more for God’s glory and honour than all who have generously contributed so much; for they gave something of their surplus plenty, whereas that individual gave his or her very all.

Dear People of God, the greatest calling anyone can have is to give their all for God and to help others do likewise, and in order to do that we need to have a very clear awareness and appreciation of the world around us, a world concerned above all with appearances, concerned with superficiality which evokes immediate reaction.  On that basis, our modern world is moribund: more and more horrific murders, not so much by groups for an agreed purpose but by individuals seeking to express self; and while lascivious sexual relationships are unregulated and Christian marriage is attacked openly or insidiously, countries here and all around can no longer see children coming along to maintain their national identity and particular character and their schools no longer teach any authoritative life-style to students or maintain acceptable discipline that helps teachers do their work.

If you remember, dear friends in Christ, it was Judas the traitor, who foreshadowed our modern irreligious world because it was he who presumed to teach Our Lord and the Eleven about Christian Charity (John 12: 4-6): 

Then Judas the Iscariot, one (of) His disciples, and the one who would betray Him, said, “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?” He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions. 

The same is happening all over the world today, the Devil having taken charge then tries to prove himself holy; so be aware, dear friends, do not allow yourselves to be impressed by appearances ‘plugged’ by pagans, however cultured they may be, look to Christ Who knows and loves you through and through, hope and trust obediently in His Spirit Who will guide you surely to where Christ is, and thank the Father Who gave His Son for us and gives His Spirit to us that we can become His own true children in Jesus.