Brooklyn Museum - The Widow's Mite (Le denier de la veuve) - James Tissot - Wikimedia Commons

Archbishop: Give with Happiness, Receive in Joy

With the invitation to understand that God is more moved by the offering of our heart, than by the gifts we bring to the altar.

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XXXII Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year B- November 11, 2018
Roman Time
1 Kgs 17:10-16; Ps 146; Heb 9:24-28; Mk: 12, 38-44
Let’s give with happiness and we will receive more in joy.
Ambrosian Rite
Feast of Christ the King
Is: 49: 1-7; Ps 21; Phl 2:5-11; Lc 23:36-53
The Lord reigns from the Cross
1)The Kingdom of God is priceless, but it is everything that one has (Saint Leo the Great, Sermon 32,2)
In the first reading and in the gospel we read about two women who are widows and don’t have any means of economic or human support. However, they have two characteristics that every believer should possess:

  1. total abandonment to God (as we can see in the first widow who welcomes and does what the prophet asks)
  2. faith in God for whom we are happy to renounce what we need for our living.

In the yard of Salomon’s Temple, there were always thirteen baskets where to put the offerings. The wealthy who gave generously had their names cried out by the priests for the admiration of all the people.
In today’s gospel, we see a poor widow who donates the few coins that are all she owns. Nobody praises her. Jesus, however, sees her and points her out to his disciples using the words He reserves for the greater teachings: “In truth, I tell you”. Jesus has finally found what he was looking for, a true sign whose authenticity is guaranteed by two qualities: wholeness and faith.
The poor widow has donated not something unnecessary but all she possessed. To give away what is superfluous is not yet love nor faith. On the contrary, to donate to the point to risk even our own life, that is faith.
In her simplicity, the widow knew that” The Kingdom of God is priceless, but it is everything that one has. In the case of Zacchaeus, it was worth half of his property, because the other half he reserved to return four times to those who he had cheated (Lc 19,8). In the case of Peter and Andrew, it was worth the nets and the boat (Mt 4,20); for the widow, it was worth only two cents (Lc 21,2), for another  it will be worth maybe just a cup of cold water( Mt 10,42) (Ibid) Therefore the Kingdom of God is worth everything that one has.
What, if we don’t have anything? “Suppose, however, that we do not even have a cup of cold water to give to the poor Christ. Well, in this case, it is the Word of God at the birth of the Redeemer that helps: the Angels sang, ”Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will “( Lc 2,14). In front of God, our hand is not without a gift, if the ark of the heart is full of good will. That’s why the psalmist says, «In me are, O God, the votes that I give you, to you I rise up my praise.”(Ps 55,12). ( Ibid)
Besides the fact that God doesn’t need anything and that all the wealth that we have comes from Him, we must be assured that God is not “fed’ by our gifts but moved by the offerings of our heart.
  2)  God doesn’t weight the quantity but the heart.
Paolinus of Nola writes; “our Lord, the only good, the only god, doesn’t want to receive for calculation of greed, but for generosity of affection. What is lacking to the One that gives all things? Or what does not own the One who is the master of the gentry? All wealthy are in his hands, but his immense goodness and justice want that we make a gift of his own gifts so that He has a way of mercy towards us because He is good. He really makes us a credit for which we are worthy because He is right.”(Letters 34, 2).
The one who is able to exert truly and continuously the virtue of evangelical poverty creates in himself the spiritual disposition necessary to become capable of loving God the way He wants to be loved and puts himself on the right path towards sanctity.
In this situation the soul puts faith and hope in God, becomes its own master and frees itself from the angst of the world, reaching the highest level of peace. This is the reason why Jesus said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit because theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Mt 5,3).” This is why Saint Francis of Assisi who had understood well Jesus’ admonition, left everything behind and married “Poverty.”
Poverty of spirit is a “vacuum” that only the Infinite can fill. To be poor in spirit is the way to be human, or better it is the way to be sons and daughters of God.
To clarify this concept I’ll use an example taken from the life of Saint Francis of Assisi. Before his conversion, Francis was squandering with friends the money of his rich merchant father, Bernanone. When he started living with friends that were following the rules of the Gospel, he was living in poverty. Bernanone, worried for his son’s change of life and for the family money he was using for the poor, consulted the church hierarchy. In front of the bishop, Bernanone asked his son to choose between the “old’ and the “new” life. If Francis would have not returned home, he would have to repay his father back. Francis gave back even his dress. The bishop then covered the naked Francis with his mantle. I think that the Saint of Assisi didn’t simply renounce material goods. With that sign, he chose God as father, the Church as mother and marrying “Poverty” he became the saint of joy.
The Rite of Consecration for the consecrated Virgins states:” O forever faithful God, be their pride, their joy, and their love. Be for them comfort, light and help in poverty. Be their wealth, their food in privation, their recovery in sickness… In you, they own everything because it is you that they prefer above all things”. (# 24)
In respect of poverty for the consecrated the Blessed John Paul II wrote, “Even before being a service on behalf of the poor, evangelical poverty is a value in itself, since it recalls the first of the Beatitudes in the imitation of the poor Chris. Its primary meaning, in fact, is to attest that God is the true wealth of the human heart. Precisely for this reason evangelical poverty forcefully challenges the idolatry of money, making a prophetic appeal as it were to society, which in so many parts of the developed world risks losing the sense of proportion and the very meaning of things. Thus, today more than in other ages, the call of evangelical poverty is being felt also among those who are aware of the scarcity of the planet’s resources and who invoke respect for and the conservation of creation by reducing consumption, by living more simply and by placing a necessary brake on their own desires. Consecrated persons are therefore asked to bear a renewed and vigorous evangelical witness to self-denial and restraint, in a form of fraternal life inspired by principles of simplicity and hospitality, also as an example to those who are indifferent to the needs of their neighbor. (Vita Consacrata, March 25, 1996, nr 90).”

  • God loves the one who gives with joy.

Another example of a person who gave everything is Mother Theresa of Calcutta. Her face had the freshness and the peace of those to whom poverty has taught that they don’t have anything to defend. She used to say:” Before being a sacrifice, poverty is love. To love, one shall give. To give, one must be free from selfishness”. All the times that I had the good fortune to meet Mother Theresa, I saw her happy because she was free. She lived the freedom of poverty not because she didn’t have anything but because she was asking the love of Christ, praying and sharing. To be with her was as to be in front of a window open onto heaven. Observing her I could see that she was lending her hands to God to help the poorest of the poor.
      Blessed John Paul II wrote:” Poverty proclaims that God is man’s only real treasure. When poverty is lived according to the example of Christ who, «though he was rich … became poor» (2 Cor 8:9), it becomes an expression of that total gift of self which the three Divine Persons make to one another. This gift overflows into creation and is fully revealed in the Incarnation of the Word and in his redemptive death (Post- Synodal Apostolic Exhortation. Vita Consacrata, nr. 21).”
Man is evangelically poor when, along with Saint Paul, considers the material goods “nothing, rubbish” or values them as the instrument to reach the goods of heaven: I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ  (Phl 3, 8).”
We will be as the widows of today’s lectures if we will give with joy what we are able to give it little or much.“God loves the one who gives with joy and the one who gives with joy, gives more (Mother Theresa of Calcutta).”
In order to be able to do so, it is enough to recite often the “Magnificat” reminding to ourselves that when we give to the poor we “lend” to God what we have received from Him.“ What do you possess that you have not received?” (1 Cor 4,7)

  • Christ the King sitting on the poor throne of the Cross.

There are six Sundays in the Advent of the Ambrosian liturgy there are six Sundays. Today it celebrates the last feast of liturgical time, the feast of Christ the King.
To connect this feast to the meditation of the Roman liturgy, I’d like to make two considerations. Christ is not a king because he reigns on fear but because He carries the universe on the Cross, the“poor” sign of his love for us.
Let’s carry our daily cross with the knowledge that it is a small part of the one of Christ. Let’s sign ourselves often with the sign of the Cross aware that all benedictions are given with it. Let’s pray as Mother Theresa did:
“Glory to the Father – Prayer
              Glory to the Son – Poverty
             Glory to the Holy Spirit – Love for the Souls
             Amen – Mary”
Patristic reading
Golden Chain
MARK 12:38-40
Pseudo-Jerome: After confuting the Scribes and Pharisees, He burns up as a fire their dry and withered examples.
Wherefore it is said, «And He said unto them in His doctrine, Beware of the Scribes, which love to go in long clothing.»
Bede: To walk in long clothing is to go forth into public clad in garments too much ornamented, in which amongst other things, that rich man, who fared sumptuously every day, is said to have sinned.
Theophylact: But they used to walk in honorable garments, because they wished to be highly esteemed for it, and in like manner they desired other things, which lead to glory.
For it goes on: «And love salutations in the marketplaces, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts.»
Bede: We must observe that He does not forbid that those, to whom it falls by the rule of their office, should be saluted in the marketplace, or have chief seats and places at feasts, but He teaches that those who love those things unduly, whether they have them or no, are to be avoided by the faithful as wicked men: that is, He blames the intention and not the office; although this too is culpable, that the very men who wish to be called masters of the synagogue in Moses’ seat, should have to do with lawsuits in the marketplace. We are in two way ordered to beware of those who are desirous of vain (p. 251) glory; first, we should not be seduced by their hypocrisy into thinking that what they do is good; nor secondly, should we be excited to imitate them, through a vain rejoicing in being praised for those virtues which they affect.
Theophylact: He also especially teaches the Apostles, not to have any communication with the scribes, but to imitate Christ Himself; and in ordaining them to be masters in the duties of life, He places others under them. (ed. note: Theophylact’s words should be translated – He becomes their example in the duties of life.)
Bede: But they do not only seek for praise from men, but also for gain. Where there follows, «Which devour widows’ houses, under the pretense of long prayers.» For there are men who pretend to be just hesitate not to receive money from persons who are troubled in conscience, as though they would be their advocates in the judgment. A hand stretched out to the poor is always an accompaniment to prayer, but these men pass the night in prayer, that they may take away money from the poor.
Theophylact: But the Scribes used to come to women, who were left without the protection of their husbands, as though they were their protectors; and by a pretense of prayer, a reverend exterior and hypocrisy, they used to deceive widows, and thus also devour the houses of the rich.
It goes on: «These shall receive a greater damnation,» that is than the other Jews, who sinned.
MARK 12:41-44
Bede: The Lord, who had warned them to avoid the desire of high place and vainglory now distinguishes by a sure test those who brought in gifts.
Wherefore it is said, «And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury.»
In the Greek language, «phylassein», means to keep, and «gaza» is a Persian word for treasure; wherefore the word «gazophylacium» which is here used means a place where riches are kept, which name also was applied to the chest in which the offerings of the people were collected, for the necessary uses of the temple, and to the porch in which they were kept.
You have a notice of the porch in the Gospel, «These words spake Jesus in the treasury as He taught in the temple:» (Jn 8,20) and of the chest in the book of Kings, «But Jehoiada the priest took a chest.» (2R 12,9)
Theophylact: Now there was a praiseworthy custom amongst the Jews, that those who were able and willing should put something into the treasury, for the maintenance of the priests, the poor, and the widows.
Wherefore there is added, «And many that were rich cast in much.»
But whilst many people were so engaged, a poor widow came up, and shewed her love by offering money according to her ability.
Wherefore it is said, «And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.»
Bede: Reckoners use the words «quadrans» for the fourth part of any thing, be it place, money, or time. Perhaps then in this place is meant the fourth part of a shekel, this is, five pence.
It goes on: «And He called unto Him His disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:» for God does not weigh the property but the conscience of those who offer; nor did He consider the smallness of the sum in her offering, but what was the store from which it came.
Wherefore He adds, «For all they did cast in of their abundance, but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.»
Pseudo-Jerome: But in a mystical sense, they are rich, who bring forth from the treasure of their heart things new and old, which are the obscure and hidden things of Divine wisdom in both testaments; but who is the poor woman, if it be not I and those like me, who cast in what I can, and have the will to explain to you, where I have, (p. 253) not the power. For God does not consider how much ye bear, but what is the store from which it comes; but each at all events can bring his farthing, that is, a ready will, which is called a farthing, because it is accompanied by three things, that is, thought, word and deed. And in that it is said that «she cast in all her living,» it is implied that all that the body wants is that by which it lives. Wherefore it is said, «All the labour of man is for his mouth.» (Qo 6,7)
Theophylact: Or else; that widow is the soul of man, which leaving Satan to which it had been joined, casts into the temple two mites, that is, the flesh and the mind, the flesh by abstinence, the mind by humility, that so it may be able to hear that it has cast away all its living, and has consecrated it, leaving nothing for the world of all that it possessed.
Bede: Again, in an allegorical way, the rich men, who cast gifts into the treasury, point out the Jews puffed up with the righteousness of the law; the poor widow is the simplicity of the Church: poor indeed, because she has cast away the spirit of pride and of the desires of worldly things; and a widow, because Jesus her husband has suffered death for her. She casts two mites into the treasury, because she brings the love of God and of her neighbour, or the gifts of faith and prayer; which are looked upon as mites in their own insignificance, but measured by the merit of a devout intention are superior to all the proud works of the Jews. The Jew sends of his abundance into the treasury, because he presumes on his own righteousness; but the Church sends her whole living into God’s treasury, because she understands that even her very living is not of her own desert, but of Divine grace.

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Archbishop Francesco Follo

Monsignor Francesco Follo è osservatore permanente della Santa Sede presso l'UNESCO a Parigi.

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