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Sermon on the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time 2009

Stewardship Sunday
On Gospel of Mark 12: 38-44

Early this week, I received an email from a parishioner letting me know that his family wished to raise its annual Yes, Lord Stewardship commitment to the 10% standard even with a maxed out credit card and sky rocketing bills. It caught me by surprise actually knowing that for the past year, over $1000 was cut in his wages but managed to survive, in tough times, partly because of his wife’s job promotion which made up some of his losses. His was a noble intention that quite obviously captured my attention. He mentioned he was willing to support the church for its cause as long as it wasn’t for the settlement cases. Definitely not and I can vouch for that, I replied. Such offering will be used for the daily operation of the parish and help fund the various ministries that cater to the needy. Taken aback, I was going to say something about the biblical nature of tithing but hesitated to make any further comment. Anyway, generous offering, as a widely held religious belief and practice brings bountiful provisions and results in God’s choicest blessing.
 
I thought it was interesting and timely to share this story with you, as it is the Stewardship Commitment Sunday, whereby we bring our pledge cards as a sacrificial gift. It is a day that reminds us of the story of the poor widow in the Gospel who, down to her last two coins, gave her whole livelihood to the church. And when Jesus saw her, he called the attention of the Disciples, to look at the destitute woman whose financial contribution, though meager, was beyond any measure and far surpassed the rest because it was given out of poverty. He summoned his Disciples to take a glimpse at the impoverished widow who was never noticed in the temple but exemplified complete trust in God. Her example stands in contrast with the corrupt practices of the religious leaders in those times who devour widow’s houses, resources and means of living. Jesus’ saying may be seen as a warning to leaders who loved to wear long robes, greetings in marketplaces, seats at banquets, etc. It was, moreover, a lament to the many social ills and abuses made by the scribes to the vulnerable and the dependent all for sordid and financial gain.
The famous story of the widow’s mite was memorably depicted as an example of humble devotion to the Lord. In the biblical tradition, the first harvest/income was always offered to the temple and whatever was left was to be given to the widow. This was done to remember once again, their lives as slaves and help them recall God’s redemptive act. Widows are one of those overlooked in the society. As a result, they were entitled unique protection by the law and granted special favor. That said everyone must be compassionate and gracious in dealing with the oppressed and the vulnerable (widows and orphans included) and should anyone inflict harm on a widow will be punishable by death. Thus, to show compassion and concern for them was sacrosanct. Proper treatment and care for the least in the society was the gauge in which the spirituality of the nation was measured.

We may spend countless hours inside the church worshipping God, reciting our prayers, thinking about changing our lives for the better, pondering on the plight of the human condition down south, meditating on the virtues of kindness, patience and love but unless we put it into action, it remains incomplete, a religion devoid of practical element and limited spiritual content. Self-denial is the central thread that runs across Christian spirituality and the pinch (painful or not) of sacrificial giving is one of its byproduct. Again, whatever sacrifices we make in the name of Jesus have an immeasurable value to God. In fact, each time we celebrate Mass, we face a God who is at the ubiquity of pain, a clear reminder of self-less love. Amen.
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A Filipino Catholic Priest, born and raised in Virac, Catanduanes, Philippines, ordained for the Diocese of Tucson, AZ, eleven years in ministry and counting, Pastor of St. Christopher Catholic Parish, Marana, AZ.

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