Sunday, November 11, 2018

GOD WANTS OUR TOTAL FAITH NOT OUR COIN A homily for the Thirty-Second Sunday, Year B (Mark 12:38–44)

Imagine for a moment a huge stone platform 90 ft high, ten stories or 30 m, stretching all of Ormonde street down to High street to just past Rothe House and from High Street up to a line between the end of De Loughry place and the old Atlantic store on Lower New Street.  All one stone platform, 144,000 sq.meters.  It’s still there in Jerusalem - one huge platform for the Temple and its surrounding plaza.  The most important building, the Temple itself, stood in the middle of one side.  It was about the same size as St Mary’s Cathedral but wider, almost 90 ft. No one ever went in there but the priests.  Along another wall was another building open on one side were people could gather and the other walls had covered walkways.  
The Treasury was in the court of the women, that is, of women Jews.  Apparently there were thirteen wooden boxes with trumpet shaped funnels that rang when coins were dropped in.  Each box collected offerings for different purposes.  Her offering seems to have been a simple gift of two lepta, two small copper coins.  What she gave, all she had to live on as our Lord tells us, was very little.  The denarius was the usual pay for a twelve-hour work day for a labourer.  Those two small coins would equate to only a few minutes work.  In other words the coins were next to worthless, she had nothing to live on.  She was destitute and yet she gave her little away.

This Gospel passage could be used to speak about why and how much we should support the Church and the clergy but that would miss the point.  Those who wonder about what happened to the woman afterwards also miss the point.  Our Lord is pointing to her because she truly believed and truly worshipped. This poor woman could’ve held onto her coins, near worthless though they were, for herself.  There would’ve been nothing wrong in that.  It would’ve been prudent to do so.  Yet her faith was such that she trusted in God’s power to provide for her and to save her and so she gave to help others.  She entrusted herself entirely to God not realising that He was sitting there watching her.  

She is not alone in Scripture.  She stands in a long line of widows and women of faith. There was the widow of Zarephath, again a woman who was not a Jew, who had only a little flour and some oil to feed herself and her child but who listened to the prophet Elijah, trusted in God and God provided for her so that they survived the famine.  There was king David’s great-grandmother Ruth who though not a Jew remained faithful to her mother-in-law and returned to Israel a widow.  Despite her poverty she trusted in God and He provided for her.   God provides for those who entrust themselves to Him and cannot be found wanting in generosity.
The Jewish law commanded that they care for the poor, the widows and the orphans yet this was not done.  In fact the Scriptures tell us that often the externals of the law alone were observed.   The poor and the needy were neglected and the rich took their wealth as a sign of their righteousness, moral worth and superiority.  Things don’t really change do they?  Wealth can easily make us think we are better than those who have nothing.  Real wealth is faith and grace.  Without the grace of God we are indeed poor.
There are times in our lives when our faith is tested. It is easy to believe when times are good and life is easy.  It is much harder when we find the going tough.  It could be the long or serious illness of a loved one, a spouse or a child, or our own suffering.  It could be unemployment, difficult work conditions, relationship difficulties, or any of a long list of troubles that can afflict us. It could be that we are offered an opportunity to sacrifice in order to help someone else. It is at these times that our faith is tested. 
When I say our faith is tested I do not mean that God needs to find out.  God already knows how strong or weak our faith is.  God already knew Abraham’s faith when He asked him to sacrifice his son, his only son Isaac, whom he loved.  Abraham discovered how deep his faith in God was, indeed how deep Isaac’s faith was, when he actually reached for the knife to kill his own son and was only stopped by God’s intervention.  God, in testing Abraham, led him to a deeper faith and trust in God.
Mark in this Gospel passage presents us with a choice.  We can be like the Pharisees who have faith in our own worth, comparing ourselves to others, keeping up with the Joneses, who give only out of our surplus, only what we have to give, and who trust entirely to our own efforts for our salvation or we can be like the poor woman who entrusts herself entirely to God’s mercy and providence.
If we place our whole hope in God’s power to save us and put ourselves entirely in His care God will not be found  wanting.  I am not recommending that you put your entire weekly income into the collection plate or a charity box but that you put your faith in God and not in your own efforts.  Our good deeds must flow from our faith and trust in God, as a response to His goodness and love.  It was such a faith that built this church and our cathedral.  It is such a faith that makes saints.  God does not need our money.  He wants our faith.

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