Fr. Paul's Homily
I read the comic strips in the Star. One I usually read is the Wizard of ID. Recently, the Kingdom of ID received a visit from the Pope, which was rather out of character for the strip. In his first meeting with the King of ID, the pope hits the king on his head with his crosier and says, “You are not caring for your poor!” As with most comic strips, there is humor in the presentation, but I found it striking that this pope is so well known for the simple statement, “Are you caring for the poor?”
It is easy for us to be oblivious to the hurting members of our greater family throughout the world, and some even in our midst. For most of us in middle class America, we have to consciously look into the face of poverty, both locally and internationally. Those who go to Honduras are taking this important step to see poverty up close. We do this when we read the articles of violence in the Star, where residents of some neighborhoods live in constant fear and vigilance.
But the question is not just what can we do for the poor, but what we can learn from the poor. What might they say to us to help us understand and direct our lives toward God? Our readings today could be called “The Witness of the Poor.” Let’s look at these readings.
In our first reading a drought has descended upon Israel and the food is gone. Elijah, the prophet, is starving and is directed by God into the non-Jewish territory of Zarephath to a widow who is almost completely out of food. She only has enough for one remaining meal for her and her son, but Elijah assures her that if she gives him a small loaf of bread and water, “the flour will never run out and the oil will never be depleted.” And so it happens, Elijah, the widow and her son are able to live for a year upon this miraculous source of food.
Notice to whom Elijah was sent: a pagan widow who was starving to death! There was absolutely no reason why anyone would have believed that this woman could or would help Elijah. She is not in debt to him; she does not believe in his god; she has no personal means to meet Elijah’s need for food. Yet, it was to her that Elijah was sent.
Has God ever given you help or wisdom from the most unlikely source? Has God ever totally surprised you by sharing his Wisdom through a person who did not see wise or faithful: the little child who his too young to have the wisdom she does; the person who hasn’t been to church in years but gives a wisdom that must come from God; the hardened criminal who knows what love is all about. A starving poor pagan woman would not be my choice of persons to help a hungry prophet…but she was God’s choice. Should we argue with God?
And please notice that this widowed mother gives out of her nothingness to help Elijah. In this act of kindness she walks in complete trust and so this trust is rewarded by God. Sometimes it is the poor who teach us what generosity is all about: a homeless person who shares what he has with a friend; a child who gives up his/her savings to buy a Christmas gift for a needy family; a woman whose heart has been broken by continues losses, yet she is always willing to love another.
This generosity is once again explored in the gospel. Jesus and his disciples are sitting by the treasury of the Temple where people are making financial offerings, some of which are very large. Then a poor widow comes forward and offers two small coins…worth very little. Yet, what this widow offers is all that she has. She gives in a manner that requires trust in God’s help.
Whether we give with our pocketbooks, or with our time, or with our hearts, we have the example of these two widows to challenge us, whose generosity was directly related to their trust in God. It is often the poor who understand this connection for life requires them to trust in God. Can we learn from them?
Today we are asked to make our offering to the United Catholic Appeal. Might these two widows, both Old Testament and New Testament, be an example to guide us in our giving? Over the last two weekends you have heard about the work of the Archdiocese that is accomplished through our support of the Appeal. Today we wish to make our offering to God. Once again, I want you to know that I support the appeal also. I choose to make a monthly gift of $55.00, or $660.00 for the year. Join me in this work.
We will watch a brief video. I now invite the ushers to come forward to distribute pledge cards to anyone who has not brought theirs with them from home. We ask everyone to fill out a card, giving whatever God is calling you to offer. Please raise your hand if you need a card and the usher may now come forward.
(Play the video).
As you can tell, the pledge card for this year is much simpler than previous years since it does not include any commitment to the parish. The parish commitment will be at a separate time in the spring.
I will give you a few moments to fill out the form, then I will ask the ushers to collect the forms and we will make of them an offering to God. Pledge cards may be taken home and returned over the next few weeks.