Sunday, 7 November 2021 : Thirty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday as we all heard the words of the Lord in the Scriptures, each and every one of us are reminded of the love and dedication that each and every one of us should have for the Lord, the faith and trust that we must have in Him so that in everything we do, we always put Him first and foremost in our minds and hearts. As Christians, all of us have to be thoroughly committed to God and not just paying lip service or lacking in genuine devotion and love for Him. That is what all of us are challenged to do as Christians.

In our first reading today, taken from the First Book of Kings, we heard about the story of the prophet Elijah who went to Zarephath following the instruction of the Lord. Zarephath was a place in Sidon, in the region of the Phoenicians beyond the traditional boundary of the land of Israel, and this fact was mentioned in the Scriptures. The prophet Elijah back then had just delivered his warning against King Ahab of Israel and the people that their sins and wickedness would lead them to suffer a period of drought and famine for the next few years.

That drought and famine struck hard on the land of Israel and its neighbouring countries, including Zarephath where Elijah visited during his trip. The widow whom Elijah encountered had also suffered from the effects of the drought and famine, and at that time, she herself admitted that she was about to cook the last meal for herself and for her son, as they had nothing left, no more food to sustain themselves, just a little flour and oil enough for their last meal.

It was then that the prophet Elijah came by and asked for a little food for himself, and the widow told him about her own predicament, and how she could not spare anything for him, whom she recognised as a man of God. But the prophet Elijah reassured the widow of the Lord’s kindness and providence, and the widow, despite her hesitation and doubts, chose to make the food, making a bread for the prophet. She gave from her poverty, from the very little that she had, to the servant of God.

Elijah promised the widow that the Lord would provide for her, and that her containers of flour and jugs of oil would not run out while the period of hardships last, and everything did happen as Elijah had foretold, and the widow’s flour and oil remained, to feed her and her son, throughout the difficult times. The widow of Zarephath, although she was likely not even one of the Israelites, had faith in the Lord and chose to be generous even in her moment of suffering and misery, and gave from whatever little she had left. God provided for her and cared for her.

Then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard the story of yet another woman, a poor widow who came to the Temple and made her offering to the Temple treasury, a very small amount of two copper that when compared to the offerings made by some of the rich were totally insignificant. Yet, the poor widow truly gave from her heart, and from her poverty just like that of the widow of Zarephath. She gave those coins even when she had not enough for herself, and although those coins might have had a very small value, but they could have helped her, and yet, she still chose to offer it to the Lord.

And the Lord earlier on also highlighted to His disciples and the people the warning for them not to follow the examples of those who liked to flaunt their wealth, power, possessions and piety before others. It is not that wealth or worldly possessions and things themselves are bad, but it is our attachment to them and our desires to gain them, all of which end up leading us down the path of selfishness and self-indulgence, which then gradually can mislead us into the wrong path of sin and evil.

The Lord was also indirectly making comparison between the poor widow and those who made big donations and offerings, as well as with the attitudes of the self-righteous and pompous Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. It is not that it is bad to give large donations, but rather, we must understand that the context is easily lost when we read a story recorded in the Scriptures, as it was likely that at that time, linking to what the Lord just said earlier regarding those with long robes and those publicly flaunting their wealth and faith, those rich who gave the offerings made the offerings to be seen and praised by others.

Essentially, the important point that the Lord wants us to know is that we are all called to be generous in giving, in the giving of our blessings that we have received, and even more importantly in the giving of our love. No matter how great or significant the amount that we give, and no matter how large or small, in whatever form we give, as long as we give it with sincerity from the heart, out of love, then that is what matters in the end. On the contrary, if one were to give a large amount, but did so out of vanity and desire for his or her own selfish benefits, or worse still, desiring return for the investment, then it is not a sincere and true giving or generosity.

The widow of Zarephath gave generously to the servant of God, the prophet Elijah despite her earlier doubts, and that poor widow who gave the two copper coins at the Temple also gave generously from her heart. Both of them gave even from their poverty, and they did not seek acclaim, fame or expecting what they had given to be returned to them. As such, God blessed them and remembers their generosity. They may not receive any rewards in this world, but their rewards in Heaven shall be great, and that is what we can also be sure of if we are generous in the giving of ourselves.

The Lord Himself did so by His own example, in giving most generously and selflessly, as we heard in our second reading taken from the Epistle to the Hebrews. The author of that Epistle prominently represented the Lord Jesus Christ as the Saviour of all mankind, and also as a High Priest. And not just like any other High Priest appointed by God to lead the people of Israel in their offerings of sacrifices, for this High Priest is the One that is True and Eternal, and One Who offered, once and for all, the sacrifice worthy for all of us, for all mankind and our sins, by His most loving sacrifice on the Cross.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in the Crucifixion, the Lord showed us what true generosity is all about. He gave us all everything when He had everything. He is the Lord, the Almighty, far and infinitely above all other things in this Universe, above all of us and everything is His. He is Divine, All-Powerful and All-Knowing, and yet, for our sake, out of His equally infinite love for each and every one of us, He emptied Himself, humbled Himself so low and so despicable, all so that by sharing in our Humanity and in His perfect obedience, He may save us all and reunite us with Himself.

He was willing to strip Himself of all power and dignity so that by His offering of His own life, His Most Precious Body and Blood, as the Paschal Lamb of sacrifice, He, the Eternal High Priest of all of us, representing every single one of us, may deliver us from our fated destruction because of our sins, caused by our disobedience to God. He selflessly took all of our sins and their consequences upon Himself, and generously gave us a new lease of life, one that promises upon us true happiness and glory for eternity.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have just discussed and heard from the Scriptures, as Christians we are therefore reminded to be generous in our love and giving, in reaching out to God, Who has loved us so much that He gave us His only Son, to suffer and die in our stead, so that we may live and have eternal life. And we also have to love our fellow brothers and sisters just as much as we love God and just as much as God loves all of us. How can we hate anyone if God Himself does not? God does not despise the sinners, but instead the sins that we committed before Him.

Let us all therefore carefully discern our path in life, our actions and way of life, so that we may learn to live our lives with genuine faith and with generosity of love, in loving God and dedicating ourselves and our time and effort to serve Him, and as well as in loving our fellow men, and not just those who have loved us, but even strangers and those who despise us. Let us learn to forgive and to love one another unconditionally, remembering how the Lord Himself had died for us sinners, with the perfect, most selfless, unconditional love.

May our ever loving God and Father continue to watch over us and strengthen us that we may walk ever more faithfully in His presence with faith, and that we may dedicate more and more of our time, effort and attention to be good and dedicated Christians, from now on and always. Amen.