Lanie LeBlanc OP
Carol & Dennis Keller
Brian Gleeson CP
Paul O'Reilly SJ
reflection can be here!)
Sun. 32 B
The Gospel story according to Mark about the contribution
of the poor widow to the treasury is a poignant lesson in
having a proper perspective of oneself. Her kind of humility
is praised, not as a version of "I'm not as good as other
people" feeling or action, but on the contrary, as an honest
return to God of all she has been given. It encourages
stretching a bit rather than seeing the giving as an
obligation or after thought, certainly giving from the heart
rather than for show.
In today's churches, giving back to God through the
church entails one's treasure but also one's time and
talents. Giving only from one's surplus really amounts to
putting God last and offering the left overs, even though
that may be a large amount of time, talent, or treasure.
Realizing that everything we have comes from God helps to
correct that faulty thinking.
Putting God first in allocating one's available time,
talent, and treasure is a matter of choice. It involves
prayer and a conscious look at possibilities. It mandates
both trust in God and sensible judgement about one's human
My family once took a leap of faith long ago in
purchasing a house near a church we wanted to attend before
selling our current house. We prayed and discerned it was
where God wanted us to live so we could be involved more
fully in church life with our young family. It felt a bit
foolish financially at first, but the choice was 100%
confirmed by our immediate spiritual growth and involvement
in that church... and a quick selling of the first house!
There are other stories of churches wanting to be built
with sketchy promised funding and then, once started with
that minimal funding, the money pouring in! A person
volunteers at an organization and the effectiveness of
everyone is elevated. Spending time helping at a Children's
Liturgy of the Word suddenly makes the Gospel come alive for
the children and a reluctant teen helper.
We have all been gifted by God in one way or another.
Being pompous about it reduces its worth and effectiveness.
Acknowledging it as coming from God puts it into proper
perspective and helps build the kingdom cooperatively.
Sometimes we have to stretch a lot, financially or
otherwise, to do what we discern is God's will. I think of
my major professor when I was struggling to submit my Ph. D.
thesis (far too many years ago) and his not-so-nice or
constructive comments about how poorly I wrote. Sure glad I
prayed about how to satisfy his quality control while
maintaining my integrity and polishing my emerging talent in
writing. Published books and awards followed after the Ph.
D. but soon gave way to over 25 years of writing about "God
things". No fame or glory there, just a better personal
understanding of spiritual things and a hope that I help to
keep God's Word alive.
Here are some things to think about at the Offertory of
the Mass: Where is it that you might focus your "all"
whether it be your time, talent, or treasure? What speaks to
your heart and emanates from it? What will you humbly offer
to God's service to "pass it forward" and build the kingdom?
Dr. Lanie LeBlanc
Thirty Second Sunday of Ordered Time November 11,
1st Kings 17:10-16; Responsorial Psalm 146; Letter to the
Hebrews 9:24-28; Gospel Acclamation Matthew 5:3; Mark
In the readings this week-end, it may appear Elijah and
Jesus tells us that living in poverty is a good thing. In
the story of the widow who shares the last bits of flour and
drops of cooking oil with Elijah seems to glorify poverty
and powerlessness. That drought is thought to be an
expression of God’s wrath for the Northern Kingdom’s
idolatry of Baal and Astarte, pagan gods of agriculture and
fertility. The good suffer along with the evil. How is this
fair? There are those who say the good suffer because they
remained silent. The good were complicit with evil of
idolatry. They should have fought against it. It’s difficult
for anyone to judge whether the good are complicit or if
they are just trying to survive.
In the gospel Jesus derides the Scribes who strut like
peacocks in their ostentatious dress, in their oversized
phylacteries, and their exaggerated cloak tassels.
Phylacteries are little boxes bound to the foreheads of
pious male Jews. The boxes held parchment inscribed with
Scripture verses. The practice was to honor the admonition
to keep the words of the Scriptures on their minds. This
external display of piety and devotion to the words of the
Law and the Prophets was a show. The exaggerations were an
effort to impress ordinary people. Jesus’ exposure of the
intentions of their hearts advises us to examine our
intentions. Do we make a show of practicing our faith even
while we fail to imitate God’s love of all persons and of
all creation? In our work and business practices do we take
advantage of those without resources? Do we prey on the
ignorance and lack of skill of the aged, the poor, the
immigrant, and mentally or physically ill persons? Abuse of
those on the margins was frequently the source of wealth and
power for the Scribes and Pharisees. Those favored persons
knew how to game the system. It takes uncomfortable effort
to examine our conscience, to uncover attitudes and
intentions hidden in our hearts. Are we careful that widows
and orphans are not forgotten? Do we review and analyze
business policies, operating protocols, political
regulations and laws for abuses of the least among us? Does
tax policy take from those with little so that the rich
become richer using the subterfuge of "trickle down"
economics? Do shifting from taxing income to increasing
licensing and permitting fees adversely affect those
struggling to survive? The Sadducees, the Scribes, and to
some extent the Pharisees were complicit in the
socio-economic culture that oppressed those in need.
Perhaps the Cross and our thoughts about the Cross carry
some fault for our near-sightedness when it comes to
suffering. Since the time of St. Anselm there has been a
view of the Cross as a correction of offenses against God’s
transcendence. Anselm spoke of the Cross as making
satisfaction for slights to God’s dignity. In some way Jesus
dying on the Cross corrected an affront to God’s ego.
Anselm’s thoughts were based on the feudal system in which
Lords and Ladies offended by peasants demanded satisfaction
for the offense. This could mean days in the stocks, time in
a dingy dungeon, or banishment from the kingdom. Applying
that principle of offense and satisfaction became a way of
looking at ways of making satisfaction to God for slights to
God’s dignity and worth. The suffering and death of Jesus
was looked as suffering as a mystically correction of sin’s
offenses. That makes suffering a good thing. It made
suffering aligned with God’s will for humanity. Poverty,
suffering, and even persecution were viewed as a way of
making satisfaction to God. So wars, ghettos, lack of
educational and employment opportunities are just a way of
joining in the suffering of Jesus.
But God does not will suffering! God does not will the
death of the sinner, but the sinner’s conversion. Let’s be
clear, God does not will death or suffering. A great mystery
of God’s relationship with us is that he has given us
freedom to choose. All persons are called to holiness. We
have the choice on how we achieve that holiness. We are not
predestined to a certain form of living out a commitment to
God. We have choice; we are given freedom to choose a path.
How we walk on that path is taught us by the Hebrew
experience and the teaching, ministry and living and death
of Jesus. Throughout salvation history, God continually
points out how we should walk on the paths we choose for
ourselves. Unfortunately, over and over again, we
individually and collectively turn away and spend that great
gift, the gift of freedom, to choose what is harmful to
others. The ways of the twentieth century, the isolation of
nationalism of our time seek to exclude the poor and those
without resources to survive. We divide ourselves into
friends and enemies. We decide who is worthy of dignity and
respect by race, by gender, by national origin, by
wealth/poverty, by religious affiliation, by orientation. We
forget, we deny, we reject any thought that God is the
creator of all. We look on others as unworthy of God’s love,
of God’s kindness, of God’s compassion, of God’s mercy. How
very foolish and evil are such choices!
It is said there are seven million jobs available in the
U.S., most of them entry level. Yet, the hundreds of
thousands of refugees seeking asylum and the hope of a
future are feared. Those refugees are political pawns used
as wedges to divide us. Politicians insist these thousands
illegally enter our country from the south. Yet at every
point of entry, each person, each family is screened and
judged worthy of asylum or not. Such rhetoric is false and
harms our nation and the peoples so desperate seeking
relief. Why do we allow ourselves to be so badly misled?
Does God of the Christians not love all humanity? What gives
us the right to judge and to deny anyone God’s love?
God does not encourage suffering. In the death of Jesus
on the Cross God shed tears along with the women who had the
courage to stand with Jesus in his darkest hours. Where are
the brave, strong, daring men? They are in hiding behind the
evil ways of the world. Those who abandoned Jesus later
repented and grieved their cowardice. Despite that Jesus
stuck with his commitment of love for all humanity? What was
it that gave Jesus the courage to suffer so horribly on the
Cross? The leadership, civil and religious, judged it
expedient that "one man die that the nation might not
perish." Religious leadership made the judgement and
convinced civil leadership of the threat that Jesus’ message
was to the empire. Those leaders and their followers as well
as current leaders make a choice. God gives humanity the
freedom to make those choices. God certainly did not will
and work for the death of his son.
God does not will poverty and suffering. God did not will
that the widow Jesus observed in the temple should suffer
from want! The suffering of anyone, especially of children,
especially of widows, especially of the aged; even the
suffering and hardship of desperate persons fleeing
impossible political violence and failure of socio-economic
catastrophes; these freely willed efforts at self-enrichment
at the expense of those on the margins bring tears to the
eyes of God! It is God’s will that all his creation – even
the widows and orphans – have what is necessary to FLOURISH,
not merely survive.
If we look at the Messiah, Jesus the Christ, from just
the perspective of the Cross, we get only a smidgen of the
greatest story ever told. Jesus was born, learned as do all
children, practiced the Jewish faith of his family, learned
a trade, worked as a carpenter, owned a house, and practiced
his Jewish faith. Jesus was born and lived as a Jew. When he
was baptized by his cousin John in the river Jordan, he
began a new phase of his life. He went about Galilee and
then Judaea, healing the sick. The effects of his healings
brought those isolated persons back into society. Their
illness, their addictions, the evil spirits that controlled
them prevented them from active participation.
Jesus preached. He taught the Way of God to those
searching for meaning and purpose. He did not manipulate, he
did not coerce. He spoke to the free will, minds and hearts
of those who sought fullness of life. He wasn’t political.
He wasn’t looking for wealth. He wasn’t seeking fame. Recall
the three repeated temptations of his ministerial life.
Power, wealth, and fame were ways he could have chosen to
bring about the Kingdom of God. But each of those would have
been a coercion of the gift God gave humanity. If Jesus used
power, wealth, or fame to achieve his mission he would have
stolen the gift of freedom. God does not regret his
creation. He loves it as a Father loves his child. Jesus
listened to the Father – we use the word "obey" to describe
that listening. God gave freedom of choice to even the
religious and civil leaders of Israel. It was their choice
that Jesus should die.
In the history of faith of Jews and Christians there is a
continual effort by God to lead all into freedom. The event
of the Exodus released his chosen people from Pharaoh’s
slavery. Recall that Pharaoh of Moses’ time is never named.
That despot is a type of despot that continues to enslave us
throughout history. We are also called to liberation from
Pharaoh. A second event in the life of the People of God was
the liberation from slavery to the Babylonian empire. God
reached out and used a pagan, Cyrus the Great of Persia, to
affect that freedom. The beginning event of the Christian
era is Jesus’ ministry, rejection of the slavery of civic
and religious leadership. God’s stamp of approval on this
rejection is the Resurrection.
Freedom, liberation, compassion, mercy, and love are the
constant work of God on our behalf. If God allows us the
freedom to choose what is great; if God encourages us to
live with compassion and mercy for all others; if God
demonstrates how we must deal with those who would enslave
us and seek to kill our spirits; then should we not be more
decisive in how we live? Should we not make our choices with
compassion and mercy for those widows, those orphans, those
fleeing desperation? Should we not with Elijah go to the
widows and orphans and extend a helping hand that lifts them
up beyond starvation and death? Should we not leave behind
the robes and ostentatious trappings of power and wealth and
live in the community of God’s creation? Should we not
imitate our God’s leading us and our communities to freedom
and growth as members of the Kingdom of God?
Carol & Dennis
GIVING WITHOUT GETTING: 32nd SUNDAY B
Paul, a seasoned and experienced Jesuit priest, remembers
in Preacher Exchange II that in the year he was ordained he
was assigned to a parish in a big city. He was young, keen,
energetic and enthusiastic. So, he says, ‘his superiors put
him in a place where they thought he would do the least
damage’. On arrival he unpacked his bags. He then made his
way to the laundry to wash his clothes. On the way he met
one of the older men in the community who said to him: ‘You
don’t have to bother to do your own washing here. We have
Mrs. Jones to do all that for us.’
That same day Paul bumped into Mrs. Jones. She was 82,
stiff and bent over with arthritis. She could barely walk.
The very thought that a young fit man should make her wash
his clothes made Paul’s blood boil with a sense of
injustice. He would rather run a marathon than add to her
burdens in life. So for several weeks he kept washing his
own clothes and even felt a bit smug about how considerate
he was to a dear old lady.
Then one day his superior took him aside. He was a wise
and gentle man. He said: ‘Paul, I have to ask you to give
your clothes to Mrs. Jones to wash.’ Paul’s instant response
was: ‘But why? Surely this is a terrible bit of priestly
privilege and a horrible imposition on a poor old sick
woman!’ As Paul kept protesting, he could see that in a
quiet way his Superior was getting madder and madder.
Finally, his Superior brought the discussion to a close with
the demand: ‘Look, Paul, that’s enough. I simply want you to
give your clothes to Mrs. Jones to wash. OK? Just do it.’
So, a bit baffled and bruised by this conversation, Paul
just did it. He brought down all his dirty clothes and gave
them to Mrs. Jones. She seemed delighted. So he asked her
how she felt about having to wash all the clothes of all the
priests in the community. She said very simply, ‘I love it.
It’s my way of serving Jesus.’
Paul left her presence feeling very humble, and thinking
of the words of Jesus in our gospel today: ‘they have all
put in money they had over, but she from the little she had
has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live
on.’ Clearly Mrs. Jones was one of those special quiet
achievers of this world, a real unsung treasure, with so
much love to give, that despite all obstacles, she would
keep giving 100%, would keep giving her all, until she could
give no more.
In keeping with the gospel message, let us acknowledge
today the work and ministry of all those ‘quiet achievers’
who faithfully serve the needs of our parishes and of our
local neighbourhoods, mostly out of sight, and never looking
for even one word of praise. The people, mostly elderly, who
get together to pray the rosary every day! The greeters, who
meet and welcome us each Sunday! Those who clean the church!
Those who arrange the beautiful flowers around the altar!
The volunteers who serve the cuppas! The ones who run the
piety shop! Those who wash and iron the altar cloths and the
altar servers’ robes! The sacristans who put out everything
needed for our liturgical celebrations! The ushers and
collectors! Those who make and serve the sandwiches and
cakes for the special occasions! The ones who count the
collections! Those who go out collecting food and clothing
for the St Vincent de Paul Society! The visitors from
Vinnies to poor and struggling persons, and especially to
the new arrivals and refugees! The receptionists and
volunteers in the Parish Office! The catechists who bring
the light and love of Jesus Christ to children after school
and to children’s liturgies on Sundays! The bingo workers!
The coaches of the parish sports teams! The musicians and
singers! And all others whom I have unintentionally
overlooked! Our parishes could neither survive nor thrive
In all the hustle and bustle of the Temple that day, with
people moving around left, right, and centre, who could
possibly have noticed that poor humble little widow quietly
putting into the collection for the House of God? Who could
have noticed her putting in all the money she had, and then
quietly departing the scene, without keeping even a single
cent for herself and her own needs? Who could have noticed
her? Jesus did. He noticed her, he appreciated her, he
admired her, and he praised her.
He also notices, appreciates, admires, and recognizes
every good deed done by every parishioner as done to
himself. He knows that what you do you never do for show or
recognition or fame, but only to love, help and serve others
as much as you can and as often as you can. So, in the rest
of our Eucharist today, let us give praise and thanks to God
for all the good deeds done by so many of you to so many
others, and let us praise and thank God for filling your
hearts with so much kindness, generosity, and fidelity!
Year B: 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
‘I tell you solemnly, this poor widow has put more in
than all who have contributed to the treasury; for they have
all put in money they had over, but she from the little she
had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live
The year I was ordained, they put me into a parish in
North London. I was young, keen and enthusiastic, so they
thought they had better put me somewhere safe, where I
couldn’t do too much damage.
And when I arrived, I unpacked and the first thing I did
was to wash my clothes. One of the others remarked to me –
"you don’t have to bother doing your own washing. Here, we
have Mrs. Jones to do all that for us."
I met Mrs. Jones. She was 82, very bent and stiff with
arthritis. She could barely walk. The very thought that a
young fit boy should make her wash his clothes made my blood
boil with the sense of injustice. I would rather have a
millstone hung round my neck than add to her burdens in
life. So, for several weeks I washed my own clothes and felt
very righteous about it indeed. That should have been my
warning. Generally, it is only when I’m feeling righteous
that I do really stupid things.
Then, one day, my superior took me to one side. He was a
very wise and gentle man. And he said to me: "Paul, I need
to ask you to give your clothes to Mrs Jones to wash."
And I asked, "But why?" And I went on to tell him why I
thought that this was the most terrible clericalist
imposition on a poor old sick woman. I fear I may even have
got in a paragraph or two of Vatican II on the vocation of
the laity and one or two quotations from Paolo Freire. And,
as I talked, I could see that, in a very quiet way, my
superior was getting very angry indeed. And when I had
finished talking, he simply said: "Look, I want you to give
your clothes to Mrs Jones to wash. OK? Just do it!"
So, with my tail firmly between my legs, I just did it. I
brought all my dirty clothes and gave them to Mrs Jones. She
seemed delighted. So I asked her how she felt about having
to wash the Fathers’ clothes. She said, very simply, "I love
it – it’s my way of serving Jesus."
I realised that, in my arrogance, I had thought of her as
my servant, rather than the Lord’s. So I left her presence
feeling very humble and thinking of these words of Jesus.
"they have all put in money they had over, but she from the
little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she
had to live on.’
Thank you Mrs Jones.
And not just for the cleanest shirts I’ve ever worn.
Let us stand and profess our Faith in God who never
wastes anything or anyone.
Paul O’Reilly, SJ
Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and
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preaching you hear. Send them to
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