Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunday word, 11 Nov 2012

Human Parable
32d Sunday of the Year B (11 Nov 2012)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Over a liturgical year we together immerse ourselves in the mystery of our Messiah Jesus. As Jesus neared the end of his ministry, he came to Jerusalem to suffer, die and be raised on the third day.1 As we begin to close another liturgical year, today’s gospel recalls Jesus in the area outside the temple,2 its treasury. It was a spacious area with terraced walls. Jesus would have seen many people moving about near the temple treasury and been near enough to notice their facial expressions and other body language.

Jesus saw the crowds. He saw religious professionals: scribes; Pharisees; elders. He saw wealthy and poor; and his disciples. When we hear and read Jesus speaking to his disciples, Jesus addresses us, his disciples now, the church. Let’s hear him.

Jesus spoke in two scenes in today’s gospel selection. Jesus remarked about the scribes (scene one) and about a poor widow (scene two). His remarks may seem connected by a slender thread of coincidence. So we may ask, “Do Jesus’ words speak to us?” I suggest they remind us that God protects God’s faithful, and they urge us to act with confidence in that protection.

When Jesus addressed the crowds, his disciples heard him, too. His disciples knew that scribes had the legal right to administer estates. They earned that trust by their standing as religious leaders. Some scribes were trustworthy. Yet by Jesus’ day some had squandered the estates of many to enrich themselves. The temptation of greed was not limited to the scribes. Jesus knew that. He named them as only one example of what to beware, much the way people warn friends to beware people who won’t be fair with them. As we hear, “Watch out for scam artists who…,” Jesus warned his disciples about people who made a show of their faith instead of living it and living by it.

Greed is a symptom of a need to control rigidly one’s life. The word life includes human existence and one’s possessions. From the vision of faith our existence and all we have are gifts to us from our Creator. Life and possessions are given us to manage and manage well. It’s false to think 90% is mine and 10% is God’s. All is God’s, who gives to us to manage as best we can.

Confident faith frees us to manage well. Confident faith has practical aspects of honesty and fairness not exploitation and greed. Honesty and fairness  fit Jesus' teaching of the crowds that 
day. In the crowd Jesus saw the poor widow. She was his parable! The poor widow modeled confident faith because she came to the treasury and put in two small coins worth a few cents. She did not put in one and keep one for herself. Her confident faith that God would safeguard her and guide her journey through life freed her. Jesus saw how she and the crowd put in their offerings. As it happens so often, we with more have more to distract us from giving freely and faithfully.

Jesus was not distracted. He freely and faithfully gave his life in his passion. His passion soon followed the scene of the poor widow giving her offering in the temple that day! Jesus’ confident faith freed him to die to live anew and give our lives new purpose. What is our purpose? Like the parable of Jesus our purpose is less about money and more about our ways of living. To eagerly await him shapes our new purpose: we desire to make Jesus’ faith ours and to put Jesus’ faith into action until he comes to bring salvation to us and to many who will come to know him because of our manner of living.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Ease into an awareness that the Trinity recreates you.
  • Ask the poor widow to present you to Jesus.
  • Praise and thank Jesus for your faith and consider how freely you live your faith: Am I a good steward of God’s many gifts? Am I a loving steward? Or am I an anxious steward, who needs to manage anxiety more than God’s gifts?
  • Ask Jesus for the grace to live your faith more freely.
  • Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave it to us to say daily so we might live more freely this day, this hour, this moment given us. Not by our schemes but by faith’s freedom are we parables for each other and everyone we meet.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. Mark 8.31-33; 9.30-32; 10.32-34.
  2. Read a brief overview of the treasury.

Wiki-images by Online Collection of Brooklyn Museum of Jesus teaching in the treasury and widow’s mite were released into the public domain.

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