32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 7, 2021
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
This week was a week of high emotion for Virginians.
But for all of us there was an important lesson learned:
the little things are important.
For example, small things like voting
—taking 1 hour, or maybe 2, out of the 8,760 hours of the year,
.01% of your year—
small things matter to the fate of the world.
Sorry: I used to be an accountant.
In last week’s Gospel we heard Jesus tell us:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength….
[and] love your neighbor as yourself.”
Last week I talked about what it means to “love” God and love your neighbor.
But this week I’d like to focus on what it means to love
“with all your soul, mind, and strength….”
Specifically, how it means
we have to love not only in the big important ways in life,
but it also in the small ways as well.
That small things matter.
Think of it.
Love God with your all.
In other words, in every thing you do, love Him all the time, love Him everywhere.
And love your neighbor as yourself.
When and where don’t we love ourselves—in the big ways and the small?
When I’m driving in the car, I love myself so much that I’m offended
when someone cuts me off in traffic—and I get angry.
When there’s one piece of pie left for dessert, and someone else takes it,
you may smile, but you love yourself so much you still resent it.
Sometimes we love others in the big ways,
but we love ourselves more in the small ways.
A man would give his life for his 16-year-old daughter,
but he won’t give up a Monday Night football game
to sit down and talk to her about her problems in school.
Sometimes the small ways—or at least what seem to be the small ways
—are the most important.
In the Gospel we read about how,
when Jesus was in the temple watching people make their donations,
He saw “Many rich people put in large sums.”
But then He saw, “A poor widow …put in two small coins worth a few cents.”
And He says: “this poor widow put in more than all the other[s].
How could He say that?
Obviously, He wasn’t an accountant.
But as He tells us, even though they gave such large amounts,
they gave “from their surplus wealth”—they still had a lot left,
so it wasn’t terribly hard to do.
But the widow, He says, gave “all she had.”
Today’s first reading makes the same point.
There we find another poor widow.
And along comes Elijah and he asks for her last piece of bread
—it was literally all she had.
She says: “when we have eaten it, we shall die.”
And yet she gave it to God’s prophet.
Now, some might think this is great stuff for a homily on giving to the Church:
give to God’s prophets,
put your last penny in the collection basket in the temple.
And actually, some might prefer that kind of homily to this one.
Because sometimes it’s a lot easier to throw an extra $20 dollars in the basket
—or even $100, or $1000, or more—than to love in the smallest of ways.
But this is not the way with Christ.
Because Christ saw that the widow wasn’t merely giving money.
That money was all she had—how could she eat, where could she live?
So when she put in her last penny, small as it was in financial terms,
it was her way of saying: “Lord, I give you all of my life.”
Or “I love you, Lord, my God with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength.”
Last week I explained that the 2 “great commandments” of love
are actually a summary of the 10 Commandments of Moses,
and so help us to understand that the 10 commandments
teach us how to love God and our neighbor.
But Jesus makes it clear that we have to keep the commandments
not just in the large ways, but also the small.
So, for example, Jesus says:
“You have heard …it …said …, ‘You shall not kill…’
But I say to you …whoever insults his brother
…shall be liable to the hell of fire.”
When it comes to loving your neighbor, the small things matter.
Now, some might point out that
the widow who gave her last piece of bread to Elijah was repaid by God
—Scripture says that neither “the jar of flour…nor the jug of oil” ran empty.
But Father, I give and give, and nothing comes from it.
I work hard in school to please my parents, and they still yell at me.
I give lots of money to the church, and the priests or bishops waste it.
I love God as best I can, and He doesn’t answer my prayers.
But remember, Scripture says the widow “was able to eat for a year.”
She was still poor, and the flour lasted only for a year.
What God did was provide for her needs, not for her mere “wants.”
And when we give our all to God and neighbor,
God will also provide for our needs as well.
So that when we give love to a son or wife or friend, and they give love back,
that’s God’s gift back to us.
And when they give no love back,
it’s also God who does loves us, and gives us the grace and the peace
to deal with that rejection.
And when we pray to Him and He doesn’t give us what we want,
open your eyes and hearts to see that somewhere else in our lives
He’s giving us what we really need.
But beyond even that, as St. Paul says elsewhere:
“What do you have that you did not receive?”
We give to God only what He’s already given to us
—so how can we say we receive nothing?
We love and give to God, because God loved and gave to us first.
We see this most clearly in the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.
As St. Paul tells us in today’s second reading,
Christ is our high priest who offers not “blood that his not his own,”
but blood that is His own.
On the cross He gave His Father and us His whole self, His all—
all His heart, soul, mind, and strength.
No other sacrifice, no other love, can compare to that.
And yet because of His perfect act of love and giving,
even the smallest, apparently insignificant
acts of love and giving that we do, can also have meaning.
Because by His cross and death, He has given us a share in His life.
In baptism we enter into His life, become part of His body,
and can share everything His is and does.
And at every Mass, we offer ourselves and all our acts of love, big and small,
as sacrifices, and Jesus takes them and unites them
to His great sacrifice of the Cross, and offers it to His Father for us.
So that when we love with all our hearts and strength,
the small things in life, can not only matter,
but take on divine proportions.
But, of course, this requires that we actually
remember to love Him with everything we have.
One excellent way to do this is a very simple act of piety
my parents taught me as a child,
and their parents taught them as children.
And that is, first thing in the morning, as soon as you wake up,
offer the little prayer called “the Morning Offering.”
There are lots of different versions of this prayer,
but they point to the same thing: offering Jesus
“all my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day.”
And when you begin the day with this,
even the insignificant moments of the day can open up as opportunities
to give back to God the great love He has given us.
Now, as we prepare to enter into the Mystery of the Mass,
we meditate on how the bread and wine
representing all our acts of love from this last week
are transformed into Christ’s own body and blood,
so that our small sacrifices are united to his own perfect and great sacrifice
to the Father.
And we remember, just as He gives His all to you, body blood soul and divinity,
in Holy Communion
you must also give your all to Him,
by loving Him now, and at every moment, in every place,
“with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind,
and with all your strength…..” Because in Christ, even the small things matter.