Posted by: St. Florence Catholic Church | November 6, 2021

Fr. Oscar Hernandez Homily for Nov 6/7, 2021 (32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time)

The scribes that Jesus speaks about in today’s Gospel were the very influential teachers of the Law of God. They had great authority in the Temple.  Here Jesus is telling the people, “Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets”. The scribes were apparently full of themselves and somewhat hypocritical. But, who doesn’t like to wear fine clothes and be treated with honor and respect?

It is Jesus’ next assertion that is the most troubling—“They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers.” One of the roles of the scribes was to write wills and deed properties. And some of them abused their position.

When a man died, the scribes would visit the widow under the guise of counseling her about settling her husband’s estate. In those days, a wife could not inherit her husband’s property or money, so it usually would be left to his sons who, of course, had the duty to care for their mother.

They would pray long prayers and advise the widow that it was God’s will that she give the entire estate to the temple for the sake of her husband’s soul in the afterlife. After taking possession of the property, they would drive the widow and her children from their home, sell it, leaving the widow and her family homeless. 

This was the practice that Jesus was condemning: “They will receive a very severe condemnation.” Of course, this wasn’t the practice of all of the scribes. Just as today we have some clergy who have done bad things. But, most clergy today are honorable and trustworthy servants of God and his people. 

Many of us take advantage of others, using our influences, social position for our personal good, we forget the suffering of most people…  The Gospel text then transitions to a different scene. 

Jesus moves from the Court of the Gentiles where He was teaching and condemning the religious leaders who take advantage of vulnerable people to the Court of the Women where the people presented their offerings. He sits and he watches. Many well-to-do people are dropping in gold and silver coins, but his attention zooms in on one poor, nameless, and probably homeless widow who drops in two small coins, worth only a few cents.

To his disciples, Jesus says, to avoid contamination: This poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

Jesus praises her, not just for her great generosity, but for her phenomenal faith in entrusting all she had to God. Probably one of those widows who was left homeless and penniless by the crooked scribes. But, when you think about it, it’s also a hopeful sign. This widow had every right to be angry at the religious authorities.

They had robbed her; left her a homeless beggar; probably seeking shelter with resentful relatives or neighbors. She also could have been angry at God. It would have been very human for her to have issues with God, as well as with the Church. She could have blamed God for taking her husband away from her. 

Many of us, even for a time, felt God let us down when a loved one has died, especially when we had prayed for healing. 

She also could have been angry at God for her homelessness and her poverty. This happens a lot. People get angry at God for all kinds of things, great and small. Even some of the saints have gotten angry at God.

Life can sometimes be harsh, and God seems nowhere to be found. Getting angry with God is a pretty normal experience. But the amazing thing is that there are so many people who have been hurt by life or hurt by the Church who do not transfer their feelings of anger to God.

Certainly this widow in the temple that day was such a person. She stayed there. She was faithful to her commitment. She didn’t let her issues with the church get in the way of her trust in God, even literally down to her last penny. It is that faithfulness and trust that earns her the praise of Christ.

Likewise, the widow we hear of in our first reading today. Elijah calls her to trust God with the little she has so that God may multiply her supply of food and drink.

What this tells us is that when we are faithful to God, he is faithful in his promises to us. It also points out that we will never outdo God in generosity. It reminds us that though we sometimes encounter or hear of even terrible evil in the church, it is God’s to condemn and punish. Like the widow of the Gospel, we will receive the praise and the favor of God in remaining faithful in our commitment. 

And like the widow of Zarephath, our blessings will overflow as we offer truly sacrificial gifts to him, not just out of our excess, but of our very sustenance. These are the offerings that give glory to God.

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