Monday November 21, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Daniel 1:1-6, 8-20) Gospel (St. Luke 21:1-4)
In the Gospel reading today, we hear about this poor widow who puts just a couple of small coins into the treasury. The Lord says to us that she has put in more than everyone else because she did not give of her surplus but she gave of her very livelihood. Now that certainly is true with regard to any kind of financial situation, but we can also look at it from a spiritual point of view. We have to ask ourselves again: What is it that God is looking for from each one of us, and do we give to Him out of our surplus or do we give to Him out of our necessity? Not merely the sense of recognizing that we are absolutely dependent upon Him–because we are–but what we oftentimes do is to limit what we are going to give to God, or sometimes when we go to prayer it is all about the self. What we do give to God tends to be only when we do not want to pray about ourselves, which is pretty rare. If that is the case, how much are we really giving to the Lord?
Obviously, when we go to prayer there is a great deal that we gain from it. Yet it is not a matter of what we are getting; prayer is a matter of what we are giving. That is the necessity of it. And so we are to go to God with absolute trust and confidence that He will provide everything we need. We also need to be there with the complete charity that we are going to give to God whatever He would desire. When we look around and we realize that this world is in such grave necessity, we have a need to pray. And while there is need to look at some of the issues in our own lives, we need to make sure that we are looking at what the world needs as well, what the people around us need. We have to make sure that we are really, truly practicing charity, that while we might prefer to go to prayer and be selfish in the way we do things, out of our necessity we can pray for others. That kind of prayer is going to be exceedingly pleasing to the Lord.
It is a delicate balance sometimes. We have to try to discern what it is God wants us to pray about because sometimes there are things that are going to be in the way, things that stand between God and us. Obviously, that is what we need to pray about, to discern what the problem is and get rid of it. But beyond that, for the most part we need to make sure that our focus is simply on God. Even on those occasions when we are trying to discern what is in the way, it is so that we can focus more on God. It is not to be self-focused, but it is about the Lord. If we are focused on Him then we can be completely confident in what He is going to do for us because we are not just going to be giving to Him a little bit here or there when we do not want to think about ourselves–or when we are so generous that we actually do not think about ourselves for a few seconds!–but the very essence of what we are about is focusing on the Lord and giving of our very necessity. That may seem to us something exceedingly small, just like this widow who put in only two copper coins when the wealthy people were putting in lots of money, but when we look at it from God’s perspective, we realize that if we are truly trying our best to give Him the praise and honor and glory that is due to His Holy Name, if we out of charity are truly seeking the good of others in our prayer as well as in our works, then we are giving out of our necessity.
That is what He is looking for: true charity, digging in deep. When Mother Teresa was once asked, “How much should I give,” (Somebody was asking that in a financial sense) she said, “Give until it hurts.” Do not just give from your surplus; give until it hurts. How about prayer? How much more important is that than money? God does not care about the money. God cares about charity. That is what we have to be about. Whether that is charity with regard to time, whether that is charity with regard to finance, or whether that is charity with regard to prayer, that is what it is all about. The focus of our lives has to be charity. If we are focused on charity, that is, truly loving the way we are supposed to, then God will handle everything else and we can have complete confidence in that. Like the widow in the Gospel, it does not mean God is going to make us rich and make everything easy. She was poor. Yet look at the wealth she had, the wealth of love that she could give more than everyone else even though it was only two little copper coins. That is what God is looking for: true generosity, true charity of heart, not to give just of what we have left over, but to give from our heart from the very necessity of our lives.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.