Today’s homily is for the 32nd Sunday of Ordinary time, Nov. 7, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here soon.
When I was the Dean of Students at Turlock Junior High a student thought it was pretty funny that I was willing to bend down to pick up a quarter. I just laughed a bit and told him, I’d bend down to pick up a dime, a nickel, or even a penny! I wonder though, would you bend down to pick up a penny? How many pennies, do you think, are in the church parking lot at this very moment? I bet there’s a few. You’ve probably heard the saying, “This is just my two cents, but…” or “Hey, I didn’t ask for your two cents…” In both these ways, we recognize that two cents, well, honestly, it’s not worth very much. It’s true that pennies don’t count for much when you’ve got a great deal of wealth, but they sure matter a lot when you have nothing to eat at all. And if you had nothing to eat at all, would you give away your last two cents? I am sad to admit that I probably would not.
To be honest, I am shamed today by the poor widow who put everything she owned into the treasury. The church asks only that we give 10% of our wealth to God–our first fruits–and the other 90% is entirely ours, but even still, so many, myself included, struggle to be so generous. Isn’t that sad, that we who believe that all that we have, our health, our wealth, our very life is a beautiful gift from God, but are still so tight fisted when it comes to giving Him only ten cents on the dollar? If I offered anyone here a hundred dollars, with the only expectation that you left ten dollars in the basket, not a person here would deny the opportunity…and yet when God gives so generously, it can be so difficult to give back.
I once heard about a man who had become very wealthy, making over a hundred thousand dollars a year. When approached by the pastor about why with his increase in wealth he had not increased his tithe, the man shame-facedly admitted, “Father, when I made only $32,000 a year, it was easy to give the church $267 a month, but now that I’m making $140,000 a year, I’m required to give almost $1,200 a month! Father, that’s a lot of money! I can’t be that generous! I need prayers. The priest said, “Let’s pray then, ‘Lord, I pray that you would reduce Dave’s salary back down to $32,000 a year so he can be generous again.”
The truth is that we all want to keep our wealth, and when we do give, it’s a lot easier to give out of our excess, than it is to sacrifice greatly and give from the core of our earnings. Our family is always looking at our budget, striving mightily to make sure we’re giving our tenth to God and community. I will tell you, belonging to a parish like O.L.A. helps a lot. I don’t think I’ve ever belonged to a parish that was so generous in so many ways. During COVID we didn’t have a festa but we needed operating funds for the year. There it was. We need a well. We have one. We have the bishop’s ministry appeal, goal met–even exceeded. Belonging to this parish makes me want to be more generous.
And it’s not just treasure that we’re talking about. The amount of time our parishioners give to youth catechism, families that are here working the festa all weekend, avo and voo-voo, out there workin’ a booth, the Knights of Columbus, just slaving away at the BBQ, passing out chicken through the window, or stirring away at a hot pot of beans. The robes that get washed and pressed, the sacred vessels cleansed, the liturgists that organize all the readers, altar servers, and singers…you all make me want to serve more. Do more. Whether someone is bringing a backhoe or working the camera, your generosity and spirit make me want to give more of my time to the service of this beautiful church and to others.
Some people don’t want to give because they can’t give much. Some people don’t want to serve because they can’t do much. Some people don’t want to teach because they don’t know much…but the Lord encourages us today. He says that this poor widow, who gave only her two cents–which wasn’t much then, and is still less today–gave more than all the rest, because she gave sacrificially. She gave from the heart. And the little that she gave grew God’s kingdom of love. I want to thank you and invite you to give too. Put in your two cents. Do not be afraid. Give all that you have.