Monday, November 02, 2009

Homily / Sermon for 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

They have all put in money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed. (Mark 12:44)

Even in Jerusalem - so it seems - even there in the temple - the religious authorities asked for money and complained about how little the people give. Nothing has changed very much, has it?

So how much should we give?

Now there’s a question. Should it be ‘as much as is needed’? Or ‘as much as we can afford’? Should it be what we have left over - or should what we give be our first thought rather than our last? Should it be ten per cent - a true tithe - as the Bible appears to suggest and as some Christian groups tell us. Should we give the change which is left in our pockets, or the same coin or note which we have been giving for the past however so many years?

The answer which Jesus gives us is at first most reassuring, then - once we reflect - impossibly challenging.

At first he seems to say, it’s all right to give a little, if a little is all you can afford. And those are welcome words. But look again. Jesus’s words are not meant to provide comfort - they are meant to disturb.

‘They have all put in money they had over’, Jesus says, ‘but she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed.’

Give everything, and nothing, he says. Do not give what you can afford, or what you have calculated, for your giving is a measure of your commitment and your love. Do not give from your wealth - as that would just be vanity, but give all your wealth. Do not give from the heart, but give the heart itself. Limits to giving are limits to love.

And at this time of year we remember especially those who have made the ultimate and absolute gift. As in November we recall all those who have passed from this life to the next, this weekend we recall those whose passing itself has been an act of service and sacrifice. We deplore the need for war, we shrink from its horror, and we honour those who gave their lives in the service of others. Theirs was a gift without limit. Our gratitude should match the extent of their gift.

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