Thirty Second Sunday: Giving Our All For God

Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For…she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on’ (Mk. 12:43-44).

Many of us are familiar with the account that we have just heard as the story of the widow’s mite. The mite or lepton, to use the proper term, was then the smallest and least valuable coin in circulation, worth about half a penny. In drawing His disciples’ attention as well as our own to the offering and example of the poor widow, Our Lord presents us with a person who by our standards we would describe as vulnerable; a poor widow in a time when widowhood was often synonymous with destitution. Some scholars think that this passage of Scripture seems to indicate that widows wore a special kind of dress for Our Lord to have identified one in a crowd. This is quite plausible since in many cultures widows are known to wear distinctive garb.

There are in Sacred Scripture about eighty direct references to widows. The God whom we worship is a God who cares for the widow. He is profoundly concerned for her, as well as with the stranger and the fatherless. He is righteous and protects them for He is a father of the fatherless, a defender of widows…in his holy habitation (Ps. 68:5). The Lord upholds the orphan and the widow (Ps. 146). Like our heavenly Father whom He came fully to reveal, the Incarnate Son of God cared for His widowed Mother by entrusting her to the Beloved Disciple (Jn. 19:25-27). He raised from the dead the son of the widow of Nain and returned him to his mother (Lk. 7:11-17), and in the spirit of the prophets, as we heard in the gospel reading, He condemned those who took advantage of widows. God had commanded the nation of Israel to care for widows, being diligent not to isolate them (Cf. Deut. 16:11-14). The early Church cared for widows (Cf. Acts 6); and the task was so important that seven men of good reputation, full of wisdom and the Holy Spirit, were selected to be responsible for the matter. They were our first deacons. The care of widows is a sign of true religion says the Apostle James: religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world (Jm. 1:27).

In the early Church, some widows constituted the first form of consecrated life. The ministry of consecrated widows gradually disappeared with the founding of communities of nuns but in our history there are canonized widows who became consecrated religious or even founded religious congregations. Women like St. Bridget of Sweden, St. Rita, St. Elizabeth Seton or our own Canadian saints: St. Marie of the Incarnation, St. Marguerite d’Youville and Blessed Emilie Tavernier Gamelin. The widow spoken of in the Gospel and immortalised by Our Lord’s admonition to his disciples, is more than an example of generosity. The mite, the widow’s offering, her wholehearted gift, all she had to live on, is a symbol of total self-giving and trust in Divine Providence. The holy widows, whom we venerate because of their heroic example of charity, are witnesses to the validity and necessity of lives of total self-giving and vocations to absolute devotion – no matter what our state in life may be. Vocations to absolute devotion are not the exception but the norm; and they form the solid foundation necessary for family life. How can one possibly form a family without this commitment? The same is true for a nation; and nationalism which is so much derided in our day is an expression of patriotism, a virtue needed for the health and security of any nation. We are not globalists.

This week, on November 11th, our nation will pause to remember those who sacrificed their lives to preserve and protect our freedoms. Remembrance Day marks the end of the First Word War, a conflict in which sixteen million people lost their lives. We remember the young soldiers who sacrificed all, their whole living, all that they had to live on, so that we might enjoy our freedoms. Roughly one in ten of our enlisted men died in this conflict. In many ways historians tell us, the contributions made by Canadians to ending this war forged us as a nation. Our national identity it can be said was partially forged in sacrifice.

This spirit of sacrifice is now needed more than ever as we struggle with a global tyranny that is pitting citizens against one another; as we all struggle against government overreach and many experience the loss of employment and their livelihood. Let us do all that we can to remain faithful to our faith in the midst of all this, and in a spirit of sacrifice, to the extent that we can, as generously as we can, help those who are most acutely affected by the persecution that we are all experiencing.

It was in during the Great War that our Lady came down from Heaven to Fatima in Portugal with a message to humanity; a call to penance and to conversion of life. In a series of six apparitions Our Lady spoke to the children of Fatima of the sad consequences of rebellion against God.  Forgetfulness of God is the fundamental aberration of the human spirit but the denial of God and the order established by Him is no aberration; it is the foundation of the culture of death, a culture that does not mourn the loss of human life but rather promotes it. Whether we admit or not, we are now surrounded by the culture of death. What a drastic change. The history of the twentieth century, up to our own days, has witnessed the struggle between the children of light and the children of darkness. The children of light are inspired by the message of Fatima, by submission to the laws of God, by humility and charity. The children of darkness however are governed by the spirit of rebellion and of rejection of God’s laws, which in the twentieth century manifested itself principally though not exclusively through Communism and all forms of political atheism. The cultural revolution that has inflicted so much suffering and upheaval both in the world and no less in the Church denies any and all spiritual realities and any stable and permanent element in man or in society. This lack of stability is at the heart of the crisis in commitment that is all around us and the distraction or obsession with fleeting earthly realities, such as ‘sustainable development’ or climate change. These are distractions and the cause of so much suffering, as we are sadly experiencing. By God’s grace however, we know the truth of things. Human beings have souls; and this is our permanent element that we must nurture and mold in the likeness of God who in His Incarnate Son shares His own life with us. Each and every time that we celebrate this Sacrifice, we remember and we commit ourselves anew to live by this Mystery in which God gives us His whole living and invites us to do likewise. Imitate the mysteries that you celebrate. At the Altar we learn all that we need to know for life; always remembering never forgetting; so that the human spirit may be healed and that true and lasting peace be established. ⧾