Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Two Small coins
Christian discipleship has always represented a challenge to those claiming the title; it demands a generosity of spirit inspiring us to do the best we can at all times. An impossible dream? Christ did not think so! The readings today provide us with examples of those who excelled.

1 Kings 17:10-16 Here we have the example of a poor widow prepared to share her last measure of flour and oil with the Prophet Elijah. He had been forced to seek refuge from Queen Jezabel who had vowed to exterminate all the prophets of Yahweh. She worshipped Baal. The widow's generosity did not go unrewarded.

Hebrews 9:24-28 The unknown author continues to boost the morale of the discouraged community of Jewish converts by extolling the perfect priesthood of Christ, comparing His sacrifice with those offered under the Old Law.

Mark 12:38-44 St. Mark tells two separate stories in today's passage; both are aimed at the mean spirited behaviour of the rich and the powerful compared with that of the poor widow who gave of her best.

Point 1: Many of us can remember the days when the Parish Priest would regularly publish lists of those who had contributed to different appeals, and the amounts that each had given. One such presentation comes to mind! In my home town in NSW, the parish was fortunate in having several wealthy families in it. On the occasion that comes to mind, the PP proceeded to read the list of Christmas Dues -"Mr. & Mrs. Jack .....? - $10. Mrs. & Mrs. Doug ....? - $10. Mr. & Mrs Tom ....?   $10 ... and I expected another $10!" It was a nasty form of blackmail. Fortunately the practice has been discontinued. However, generosity of spirit is still very much part and parcel of a Christian response. And I am not talking only of generosity in money matters. More importantly, the generosity I am speaking of is reflected in our over-all attitudes to living.

The majority of us, I believe, recognise the difference between a mean spirited person and the one who is generous in his or her attitudes. It is a difference which shows itself in those who live "on" society and those who live "for" society; it is the difference that shows itself in those who consistently take more from living than they put into it. President John F. Kennedy, in his inaugural address in 1961, put it well when he challenged his country "And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country".

Point 2: Every society is divided between the "haves" and the "have nots"; and it was no different in Christ's time. The Scribes were the possessors and transmitters of all learning in the ancient world. As such they exerted great authority and influence. But, they abused their position. What contributions they made were not proportionate to their position and were largely made for show. They paraded themselves as religious people, praying long hours in public and, at other times, causing great hardship and impoverishment among those who had no power to stand up for themselves. Christ challenged them for being less than they should be. Because of their privileged position, more was expected of them. [Luke 12:48] From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded"

Conclusion: On the other hand, the widow, with her pittance of two small coins revealed a generosity of spirit far exceeding that of the Scribe who could have done more. She had done the best she could. No one can expect more than that one gives of one's best. Her story represents a challenge to all who regard themselves as religious people. It is expected of each of us that we give of our best - our attitudes within the family; our work relationships; our recreational relationship. Our readings today are not stories from the past. They make an urgent appeal to all to examine our attitudes and, where necessary, to lift our game.

Scriptural reference: We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. [Rom 12:6-8]