Pastoral Sharings: "Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessageHomily from Father Alex McAllister SDS  
Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Posted for November 8, 2015

We often refer to the Gospels as being Good News, which is what the word Gospel literally means. But we don’t always experience it as good news; all too often we perceive it as placing some kind of burden on our shoulders.

The extract given to us today, however, certainly is good news. Here Jesus points out the hypocrisy of the rich and powerful and highlights the sheer goodness of the poor widow. The implication is that she will receive a high reward in heaven while all those hypocrites will go unrewarded.

This certainly is good news for all the meek and lowly people of the world. It is good news for the poor and the disregarded people around us. It is good news for us if we have ever felt powerless or unworthy, it is good news if we stick to our principles and do our duty no matter what other people think.

The widow makes a sacrifice; she gives what little she has. She places her trust in God that he will provide for her. She stands unnoticed in the Temple but actually makes a greater sacrifice than all those high-ups who are ostentatiously walking about looking important, hoping people will notice them.

It is the Widow’s sacrifice that will be rewarded by God; her willingness to take a risk, her wish to give something back to God in return for all that she has already received from him.

This implies deep faith in God. Her simple action demonstrates what we call trust in divine providence. It implies a deep faith and trust in God that he will somehow or other provide for her needs even though she has no visible means of support.

Of course, in those days there were no social services, no DSS grants, no dole or pensions. And yet despite this people didn’t generally die of hunger. There was a greater understanding of the interdependency of us all and therefore more tolerance towards the poor.

It was a village society and each person probably had access to a plot of land where they could grow a few vegetables. There were also surrounding fields where there were scraps to be found after the harvest was gathered. So while no one was likely to starve, there were surely plenty of people who lived very poorly and at a subsistence level.

This widow while not actually starving probably didn’t have much to live on and certainly not much in the way of the comforts of life. Every penny was counted and used as wisely as possible.

The thing about this reading is that in it Jesus expresses his regard for the poor and vulnerable and assures them that they are not forgotten by God.

He pours contempt on the hypocrites and on those who take advantage of others while making a show of their religiosity. These he threatens with punishment.

It is interesting to note that the woman in the story, however, is completely unaware of Jesus praising her. She places her coin in the alms box and goes on her way. Jesus makes his remarks only to his disciples and so she is oblivious to the praise Jesus heaps on her.

This heightens the point that whatever it is she gives to the Temple she does not do it to get attention, unlike those scribes who want everyone to notice how much they are giving. So it is not only that she is giving all she possessed but also that she does it discreetly and not to gain attention. She looks for no reward, she simply does her duty.

What we need to learn from this reading is that pride and greed take us away from God while humility and poverty of heart draw us closer to him. What God is interested in is our motives. It is what drives our actions that interests him, not so much what we actually end up doing.

This is one of the most important lessons of life. We cannot hide from God, He knows our inmost thoughts and motivations; he knows what we are thinking and what drives our actions. There is absolutely nothing that we can hide from him. This is why we have to keep a constant check on our thoughts as well as on our actions.

This shows the importance of a good upbringing and a good training in our youth. It is the duty of parents to rear their children to be unselfish and to be generous towards others. It is their task to train them not only in good manners, but to have good thoughts and to be motivated by the good of all.

It is very easy to indulge children and to give in to their demands but it is not good for them. They need to learn very important lessons in life and it is only the parents who can ensure that this is done properly. In an atmosphere of unconditional love we have to be sure that they learn personal discipline and to live their lives in a moderate and loving way.

However, if the parents are selfish then the children will also be selfish; they will not learn the most important lesson of life that we are all in it together. They will not realize that what we call life is a common enterprise that involves us all. They will not realize the impact that their actions have on others and they will be the worse for it. They will go through life taking instead of giving and will never fine true happiness.

This story of the Widow’s Mite is an important one for us all. It teaches us about how important it is to have a correct inner motive for our actions. It teaches us that God notices our inmost thoughts and judges us accordingly. It teaches us the importance of generosity and the need to depend on God when we have nothing else.

These are timeless lessons that we need to be sure that we transmit to our children; that we need to be sure we have learned ourselves. These lessons are the key to a truly deep and fulfilling life.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
November 8, 2015

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time: Trusting in God

In the first reading today and in the Gospel reading we meet two widows who are similar. Both are everyday, hard working women. Both are poor. Both put their trust in God. Both are rewarded for their faith.

The first widow is from Zarephath, a coastal city on the Mediterranean, northwest of the Kingdom of Israel. Elijah traveled through this land during a famine. As in all famines, the rich complain, and the poor starve. The woman was poor. When Elijah met up with her, she was putting her last scraps together before she and her son would die.


Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 12: 38–44

Gospel Summary

The Scribes mentioned in today’s gospel were not a religious sect, as were the Pharisees and Sadducees. They were simply men who knew how to read and write—a distinct minority in those days. Illiterate people depended on them for help in preparing documents, such as contracts, and this gave them considerable power and prestige in the community. But it also tempted them to become proud and to consider themselves above the laws that govern ordinary people.

It is important to note that Jesus does not condemn them because they are more learned than most. They deserve condemnation only because their pride leads them to unjust behavior. Being able to control judicial processes enabled them to defraud vulnerable people, such as widows.


Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time—November 8, 2015

Jesus gives the disciples a lesson in true religion; the example He uses must have surprised them.

Gospel (Read Mk 12:38-44)

Jesus often warned His disciples of the dangers of false, empty religion.  His strongest words of condemnation in the Gospels are always directed to those who make a showy pious flourish while, at the same time, pervert the meaning of God’s covenant with the Jews.  There were scribes in His day whose goal was their reputation.  They loved “seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets,” but they used their public show of religion to wrest contributions to the Temple (their source of income) from widows with the pretext of reciting “lengthy prayers.”  Anyone who uses religion and reputation this way faces a “very severe condemnation.”


The Catholic Church and the Common Good:

An Unbroken Line of Tradition

Last time, in this space, we mentioned that, while the Church condemns atheistic communism for, among other things, denial of the right of private property, it is also leery of the dangers of capitalism. Why? As G.K. Chesterton put it, because it produces too few capitalists and, instead of concentrating wealth and power in the hands of the state, tends to concentrate it in the hands of a tiny oligarchy. Original sin affects capitalists as well as communists.


Saints are contagious examples of everyday holiness,

Pope says

Vatican City, Nov 1, 2015 / 05:48 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On the Solemnity of All Saints, Pope Francis said the mark of true holiness is living each day as a child of God, imitating both Jesus and the saintly individuals we encounter in the ordinary moments of life.

In his Nov. 1 Angelus address, the Pope said that a key characteristic of the saints is that they “are examples to imitate.”

Francis said he wasn’t just referring to those who have been canonized, but also “the saints, so to speak, ‘of next door,’ who, with the grace of God, strove to practice the Gospel in the ordinariness of their lives.”

These people could be family members, friends or someone we’ve met, and we must be grateful for having them in our lives, he said.


Pope Praises ‘Beauty of the Gospel in the Family’

VATICAN CITY — Delivering his Wednesday general audience address a little more than a week after the close of the synod on the family, Pope Francis spoke on the role of forgiveness in helping families become a force for the betterment of society.

“The practice of forgiveness not only preserves families from division,” but allows them to aid society in becoming “less evil and cruel,” the Pope said during his Nov. 4 weekly audience address in St. Peter’s Square.

“Christian families can do a great deal for today’s society, as well as for the Church,” he said.


On the Simplicity of God

St. Thomas Aquinas, in his ability to know Who and What God is, chose a unique path in which to travel. Many are familiar with his work, Summa Theologica. His use of apophatic theology led to an incredible understanding of God’s nature, not because it is based on facts/proofs about Who God is, but rather Who He is not. St. Thomas appropriately covered five themes dealing with God, namely His simplicity, perfection, infinity, immutability, and unity.

For such a process to be successful, Aquinas had to show God as eventually existing beyond comparisons to human nature. Therefore, the ideas surrounding God had to be relative only to God, and God alone. In the end, Aquinas proved that God is supremely simple, supremely united, and that He is the True God, who can neither be divided, nor seen as lacking in anything.

How Did He Accomplish This?


Holy Scripture: “It’s True. All Of It.”

In case you are one of the five people on earth who has not yet viewed the trailer for the new Star Wars movie, let me tell you about its short exposition of why we believe Holy Scripture even though we did not personally hear Jesus speak, have not had our cancer cured by His touch, or put our hand into the wound in His side.

In the new movie, The Force Awakens, it is some years, some decades since the Rebel Alliance fought the evil Galactic Empire.  Obi Wan, Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker are at best dim memories for most folks.  Rey, a young girl who, evidently, is to become a Jedi Knight, has heard about The Force and the Jedi Knights. She wonders if all she has heard are only stories?  She tells an aging Han Solo “There are stories about what happened.” Han realizes she is using the word “story” as if to say “just stories.” He tells her: “It is true, All of it.”  This is sufficient for her. With this actual eyewitness, and what she knows about him, Han Solo saying it is true is a good enough reason to believe.


Fostering Holiness

Pope Francis has said, “Families are the domestic church, where Jesus grows.” The idea of the domestic church or ecclesiola — “little church” — the church of the home, dates back to the early Church, where Christians made their own homes sanctioned places to grow in holiness and discipleship. Still today, Catholic families make their homes “churches in miniature,” imitating the actions of the larger Church in family life.

“It is very important for me as the head of the family to make my home a domestic church, because parents and kids ought to be surrounded with a holy atmosphere, especially in today’s culture, with sinful activity so easily accessible,” explained Eric Mattson, a firefighter and practicing Catholic from Huntington Beach, Calif., who has one daughter.


What is Marian Consecration?

Several years ago, a reader asked me:  “What is consecration? Why would someone want to consecrate themselves to Mary?” How do I go about doing it?”

Since this is the time of year that I try to renew my Consecration to Jesus through Mary, I think this is a good time to discuss Marian consecration.


Just Say These Words and Walk on into Heaven

Why aren’t there some words – profound, insightful, loving, deep, meaningful, powerful words– which, when read, heard, or said will immediately and instantaneously make a person perfectly good in this life and remain so until they die, thus enjoying eternal glory in Heaven? Why cannot words such as these be written which, once read, change one into a saint?


Private Revelations: What Are We to Believe?

I had the recent and fascinating pleasure of getting myself confused on-line with a fellow Catholic and so-called “seer” from Colorado named Charlie Johnston.* The reason for the confusion being obvious. And as may be expected, it made for an intriguing foray into what the man has to say about his purported messages from heaven. It also drew me deep into an exploration of how the Catholic Church looks at claims of this kind. To journey through her wisdom on this subject of private revelation makes for a compelling exposé, I would say, into one of the finer points of our Catholic faith.

What are private revelations?


Do You Want to Know the Essential Qualities of Prayer?

In my parish ministry and work around the archdiocese, one of the questions I receive most frequently is like the question posed to Our Lord in Luke’s Gospel, “He was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’” (Luke 11:1) People simply want to know, “How should I pray? Can you help me improve my prayer life?”


Death, Combat & Prayer Power

Walking into a room to visit an eighty six year old priest friend who was convalescing after open-heart surgery five months ago, I asked, “Father, what are you doing?” He replied, “I’m talking to the Lord” as he focused on a large, life-like crucifix hanging on the wall next to his bed. “May I ask what you and the Lord are talking about?” “Sure, I am asking Jesus why He left me here since I nearly died several times but I’m still here!” I asked, “Did Jesus tell you anything about that?” Father replied, “He said I’m not finished yet. There is more that He asks of me— more prayer, more sacrifice, more love.”


Imitate the Simplicity of Jesus

Simplicity is the sign and seal of the Gospel, because it is the distinctive feature, the very nature, of the Savior. From the first moment of His life until His last breath upon the Cross, Jesus never failed to look toward His Father and to act for God. The Gospel bears testimony to this, as well as all the words and acts of Jesus Himself. “When Christ cometh into the world,” says St. Paul, “He saith, ‘Behold I come to do Thy will, O God.’ . . . I will give my laws in their hearts.” His first thought was for God. The first use He made of His liberty was to submit to the will of God and to give Himself up wholly to Him.


Giving God Deadlines

Having recently been divinely schooled on this very topic, I thought I might share the lesson I believe the Lord is trying to teach me. Perhaps some, less dense than myself, will pick up a valuable nugget for their own spiritual lives.


What To Dump For a Better Life

We’ve got a dumpster coming today for some household cleanup, an October cleaning of sorts to purge the house of many things—old broken but non-antique furniture, a basketball hoop that has seen better days, wet carpet pulled up from a home improvement project, and a wooden swing that served us well for many summers but is now warped and falling apart.

As I sit by the window, waiting for the truck that will bring the dumpster (I hope I got one big enough), it occurred to me that while I am at it, it might be a good idea to rid my mind of mental debris as well. If a cook works better in a clean kitchen, and if a home operates more smoothly with organized rooms, then I’m sure my mind (and spirit) will be better off if I get rid of a few things. Want to join me?


What Makes Catholic Families Different?

At the beginning of any journey, you need good directions, or a GPS, so you’ll know where you’re going. If you begin a trip plan­ning to make your way up as you go, you might not ever arrive at your intended destination. Even if you have a set of old directions that used to be correct, who’s to say that the route hasn’t changed? You need the most current directions to help you get from A to B.

The same might be said for your spiritual journey with your kids. If you want to arrive at your destination — the point where your kids are ready to launch out into the world as faithful, Catho­lic young adults — you can’t just wing it. And the directions your parents or grandparents used might not get you there. It’s a dif­ferent world with a completely new landscape and more roads than ever for you and your kids to get lost on. To get where you’re going, you will have to begin your journey with a clear sense of the route ahead, and you will need to be more intentional than ever about making sure you stay on the right roads.


Are You Scared of Spirituality?

Why is it that among ‘conservative Catholics’ there seems to be so little interest in spirituality? We’re big on apologetics. We’re big on dogma. We’re big on the moral teaching of the Church. We’re big on the rules, the rubrics, the regulations and the routine. But I think we’re a little bit scared of spirituality.

Catholicism For the Time Being

On Sunday, with my latest broadside on matters Catholics filed and published, I drove with my family up into northwestern Connecticut — just for the drive, no particular destination in mind. We ended up stopping for mass at a shrine near Litchfield, built in imitation and honor of Lourdes, that I’d visited occasionally many years earlier with my parents. The place was mostly unchanged: A big expanse of land, gray and somewhat forbidding on a cloudy day with the trees half-gone toward winter; a grotto where they have outdoor masses in warmer weather; a long stations of the cross ascending a wooded hill to a lifesize Calvary; and various gift shops and outbuildings scattered around the grounds.


Thanks, Mom

Thank you . . . ” I unthinkingly prompted the drive-through girl at Wendy’s, after she wordlessly shoved a bulging bag of food through the window of my van. I had just plunked down an unreasonable amount of money, money without which her job would not exist, and she didn’t even say “Thank you!” I wasn’t expecting pheasant under glass, and I don’t need to have my bum kissed for buying a Son of Baconator, but I guess a mom is a mom is a mom. Part of my job is teaching people to at least be courteous, even when they can’t muster up spontaneous gratitude.


How Modern Eugenics Discounts Human Dignity

In this modern age, many people are no longer afraid of eugenics.

It is not that they are ignorant of the past. They know all about the movement of the early 20th century that tried to create a better human race by preventing the birth of those deemed “unfit.”

Eugenics literally means “good birth,” and it seeks to “improve” the human gene pool. The American eugenics movement resulted in the forced sterilization of more than 60,000 Americans in 33 states who were considered unfit to reproduce. And eugenics did not stop there.


Interior Trials

Presence of God – O Lord, purify me as gold in the crucible; purify me and do not spare me, that I may attain to union with You.


If Our Lord finds you strong and faithful, humble and patient in accepting exterior trials, He will go on little by little to others that are more inward and spiritual “to purge and cleanse you more inwardly … to give you more interior blessings” (John of the Cross, Living Flame of Love 2, 28). The passive night of the spirit culminates precisely in these interior sufferings of the soul, by which God “destroys and consumes its spiritual substance and absorbs it in deep and profound darkness” (John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul II, 6, 1) in order that it may be completely reborn to divine Life.


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