Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 7, 2021
St. Patrick Cathedral
Fort Worth, Texas

1 Kings 17:10-16
Psalm 146:7, 8-9, 9-10
Hebrews 9:24-28
Mark 12:38-44

This Sunday begins National Vocation Awareness Week, an annual week-long celebration of the Catholic Church in the United States dedicated to fostering vocations to the priesthood, diaconate, and consecrated life through prayer and education. It is an opportunity for us to renew intentionally our prayers and support for those who are discerning one of these particular vocations. It is an opportunity for each of us to ask God for the grace to invite young men and women with leadership qualities to pray for fortitude to listen for God’s call and to respond with confidence to it by saying “yes.”

The Church teaches that Jesus Christ is the fullness of revelation. In other words, there is nothing new about God or about human beings that is yet to be revealed. All that is has been revealed in Jesus Christ and the Gospel that He preached through His earthly life, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension. The truth that Jesus Christ is the fullness of revelation shows us that God is not a god of half measures or partial truths. The point is that in the gift of His Son, God holds nothing back and offers us His unconditional love without reservation and invites us to respond in kind.

We see that clearly in the readings that the Church offers us today for this liturgy. These readings offer us the example of two poor widows and the fullness of God’s generosity in the obedient and full sacrifice of Jesus through His cross and resurrection. Our first reading from the First Book of Kings relates the story of the prophet Elijah and the widow of Zarephath. We read, “Elijah said to her, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and do as you propose. But first make me a little cake and bring it to me. Then you can prepare something for yourself and your son. For the LORD, the God of Israel, says, ‘The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the LORD sends rain upon the earth.’”

 The widow observes that she only has enough for her and her son before they will run out of what they need and resign themselves to die of starvation. Elijah encourages her that God will provide that they have enough, and miraculously God gives them daily enough flour for them to live if she offers all that God gives her in the daily distribution of flour. She trusts just as Elijah trusts. This fortitude and trust to resist the temptation to hold back out of fear is at the heart of her part in salvation history. She says “yes” and is surprised by God because God is not a God of half measures.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus preaches, “Amen, I say to you, 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.”  God requires us to give entirely of ourselves and not simply from our excess but our total being. Pope Benedict XVI once remarked on both of the widows of each of these readings: “The condition of widows was one of great need. For this reason, in the Bible, widows and orphans are people that God takes care of in a special way: they have lost earthly support, but God remains their Spouse, their Parent. Yet the Scripture says that the objective condition of being in need, in this case, being a widow, is not enough: God always asks our free acceptance of faith, which is expressed love for Him and others. Nobody is so poor that they cannot donate something.”  God calls us to generosity precisely in our lives where we experience powerlessness and poverty of spirit.

Jesus Christ desires followers and not just admirers. In giving totally of Himself in Jesus Christ, God holds nothing back and invites our reciprocal response to hold nothing back by saying “yes” to following Him by trusting and following His Son. This is seen most perfectly in the vocation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is seen in the willingness to trust of Saint Joseph and his annunciation in a dream as recorded in Luke’s Gospel. It is seen in Zachariah and Elizabeth and their answer to God’s call to them to contribute to His plan of salvation history by welcoming John the Baptist. It is seen in the call of the Apostles by Jesus in the Gospels. It is seen in the Acts of the Apostles and throughout the stories of the lives of the saints in almost two thousand years of Church history. It is also seen in our own lives in the men and women who have said “yes” to follow Christ in His call to them to serve as priests, deacons, and consecrated religious, despite the contemporary secular ethic to hold back in fear and only partially to commit to say “yes.”

Every one of these responses including priestly, diaconal, and religious vocations of today is only possible because of the “yes” of Jesus to offer His life in obedience to the cross. In the second reading from the letter to the Hebrews, the author presents us with Jesus’ full priestly embrace of sacrifice and devotion: “But now once for all He [Jesus] has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by His sacrifice.” Jesus offers His entire life, holding nothing back. He offers all in obedience to the will of His Father even amidst temptation and rejection by others.

Pope Francis once noted the following concerning the requisite mindset of the Gospel: “In the logic of the Gospel, if one does not give all of himself, he never gives enough of himself.” This is what Jesus is noticing in the hidden act of the widow. She gives all of herself precisely so as to give enough of herself.

In this week dedicated to the awareness and fostering of vocations, ask ourselves and our young people where is Christ calling you and where are you most afraid to trust Him for saying “yes.”  It is essential for us to dedicate time in our lives to pray for specific young men and women, including our sons and daughters, to put their lives in the treasury of the Lord’s love as to say “yes” to Jesus’ call to follow Him as priests, deacons, consecrated religious women and men, and not to give only of their surplus.

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