The Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 11, 2018
Fr. José Maria Alvim Cortes, Chaplain,
Saint John Paul II National Shrine, Washington, D.C.

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In the name of the Father, of the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Today’s Gospel shows Jesus observing how people put money into the treasury of the Temple. Our Lord sees our deepest motivations: “God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance. The LORD looks into the heart” (1 Sam 16:7).

Christ is impressed not by the amount of the offerings deposited into the treasury but by the secret intentions of the contributors. For him, two small coins given by the poor widow are more important than the large sums offered by the rich. The latter contributed from their surplus, while the widow contributed all she had. The poor widow gave her whole livelihood out of gratitude and full trust in God.

There is also a poor widow in the first reading. The prophet Elijah asks her to give him all that she had to survive: a handful of flour and little oil. The prophet tells her not to be afraid and makes her a promise in the name of God: “The LORD, the God of Israel, says, ‘The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry’” (1 Kgs 17:14).

The poor widow gave what she had because she was certain that God would keep his promise. In fact, the promise was fulfilled: “She was able to eat for a year […] the jar of flour did not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, as the LORD had foretold through Elijah” (1 Kgs 17:16). The mysterious reality is that we do not lose what we give to God but we receive it back multiplied. Our Lord multiplies what we give him.

The story of the widow in the first reading helps us understand the meaning of the gesture of the widow in the Gospel. She gave all that she had because she was certain that God would give her much more.

In the Eucharist, we offer just bread and wine. However, God gives us back not more bread and wine but he gives us himself, his body and his flesh. There is an infinite disproportion between what we give and what we receive from above. When we give, we open our hearts to receive from divine superabundance. God asks us to give him everything, not in order to take what is ours but as a necessary prerequisite for him to grant us the gift of himself.

Today’s Word of God encourages us to give everything to God. Nevertheless, we might feel incapable of doing that. We might fear losing what we give to God. We might be afraid of losing ourselves if we give what we have and what we love to him.

We need to be humble and recognize that we are not able to give God everything, as A. von Speyr wrote: “Holiness consists not in the fact that a human being gives everything, but in the fact that the Lord takes everything” (Adrienne von Speyr, Mystica Oggettiva). We are not able to give everything. We have neither the strength nor the courage. However, we are able to allow God to take everything, little by little, piece by piece.

Mary is the greatest example of someone who gave everything to God in a perfect way. In her “let it be” from the Annunciation to Calvary, she entrusted all that she had and received God’s superabundant answer. May we follow her example.  Amen.

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