But she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.


Today’s Gospel reading tells of Jesus affirming the offering of a poor widow, who gave from her whole livelihood, not just what was surplus wealth. The teaching here is about self-sacrifice, renunciation, faith and commitment. How much it is against what our culture—our logic even—tells us to do!

Jesus commended the widow who put two copper coins into the temple treasury because in so doing she gave her whole life. This is the exact translation of Luke 21:4. The widow’s two coins were not just all her money but a true symbol of her whole life. The widow’s offering was a statement concerning her total love for God. What happens when we give our all? Give without counting the cost? Do we dare? How can we be generous today?

People in the world use their money to make the statement that money is important and so are they. Do you give money to make the statement that money is of little importance and God is of extreme importance? When you give alms, what kind of statement are you making? When you give from your surplus, are you saying God deserves only the leftovers? Do you give sacrificially, even totally? Only this kind of giving truly makes the statement that Jesus is Savior, Lord, and God.

“Money talks,” or, more precisely, we talk through the use of our money. Money speaks louder than words, that is, the use of our money more than the words we say gives others accurate information about what we believe. “Wherever your treasure lies, there your heart will be”. Your money is telling all your secrets, for “the love of money is the root of all evil. You can’t keep your money from shouting. So give your life to Jesus. Then your money will shout: “Jesus is Lord!”

The Lord has big plans and because He is all-powerful, He does not need big money, influential people, or big numbers to accomplish His big plans. A widow’s mite or five loaves and two fish are enough for the Lord to do big stuff. Also, the Lord needs only a few little people to accomplish His great works. “He chose the world’s lowborn and despised, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who were something; so that mankind can do no boasting before God”.

Moreover, the Lord doesn’t need big numbers to reach big numbers. For example, four men in exile, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, had nothing but their faith. Yet by living their faith, they became “ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters” in Babylon . One hundred Christians can put to flight ten thousand enemies.”It is easy for many to be overcome by a few; in the sight of Heaven there is no difference between deliverance by many or by few; for victory in war does not depend upon the size of the army, but on strength that comes from Heaven” .

Little people, as few as you are, give your little bit for love of God and see the Lord do big things.

“When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?”


Jesus asked the question, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?”

This question is often thought to apply to a secularization of the world’s population in the last days. In other words, will there be fewer religious people and more pagans as the return of the Son of Man nears? Jesus was very specifically teaching about persistence in prayer, telling a parable to illustrate a God, concerned for His people. Jesus was addressing people who believed in God and prayed—some true believers and some just religious folk who thought they were OK. But they were people like us.

This passage is so pertinent because so many in our world do not believe in prayer, or that God answers prayer, in His supernatural involvement with His people. So many grow weary when praying and don’t push through until they receive an answer. This passage is within the larger context of a discussion about faith and the people of God. Christ is not asking if there will be any God-fearing people left when the Son of Man returns; He is asking if faith will be found amongst those, who claim to be God’s children!

The Catholic Church is celebrating a Year of Faith that was called for by our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, and we are now about a month into its observance.  In this Year of Faith we are striving to strengthen and deepen our faith.  We want others to see us as people of faith who practice that faith and are willing and able to defend our faith.  And so at this time the question of Jesus seems more pertinent. There are many challenges to faith in today’s world.  Many Catholics pay lip service to being Catholic but do not really practice their faith.  Other Catholics find the practice of their faith difficult because of the challenges and struggles in their lives.   The Pope is concerned about these problems, and so he has called for all Catholics throughout the world to join in this year long observance in order to renew our faith.

One of the means of renewing our faith is through the strengthening of our contact with the Lord.  We do this through prayer.  And prayer is the subject of today’s gospel.  In his parable Jesus calls upon us to be like the widow who persisted in her demand for a just decision.  He wants us to be persistent in prayer and never grow weary of asking Jesus for what we need, just as the widow never tired of asking the dishonest judge for a decision.    Perseverance in prayer is not always easy, but it will be rewarded.  Jesus is listening to us.  We know that through faith.

Have you lost heart in any prayer? What if you’ve prayed for a long time to be healed? Do you still truly expect to be healed or have you lost heart? Do you expect the end to abortion? Do you still believe or have you lost heart? Sometimes the longer we pray, the less we believe. The Lord assures us that, if a widow can get her rights from an unwilling judge, how much more will our prayers be answered by our heavenly Father Who gave His Son for us, adopted us, and loves us unconditionally, much more than we love ourselves? The Lord wants us to take heart and not lose heart, for His heart is open, pierced, broken, bleeding, and on fire for love of us.

God’s timing is different than ours. “This point must not be overlooked, dear friends. In the Lord’s eyes, one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years are as a day” . This means that God is both very slow and very fast by our standards. We often emphasize God’s supposed slowness. Yet we should also focus on His speed. God sometimes works “in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye”. God promises to give us “swift justice”. We must pray always and not lose heart. Otherwise, we will cause the Lord to delay in stopping the gross injustices of abortion, racism, “ethnic cleansings,” starvation, and other catastrophic evils.

Grow in faith; pray always; receive swift justice in a severely unjust world. “The God of peace will quickly crush Satan under your feet” . Come Jesus — swiftly!

It is by the path of love, which is Charity, that God draws near to us, and we to God.


“I find great joy and comfort in your love, because through you the hearts of God’s people have been refreshed.” –Philemon 7

One of God’s primary ways of loving us is through people. Think of the person whose love has enabled you to know more deeply the love God has for you. This person has refreshed you through their love, bringing you “joy and comfort”. When you were with this person, their love was so refreshing it was as though Jesus Himself was refreshing you. When you look at their face, you know “God is Love”.  I personally have no words to express how much I have been loved by people, many of them being you who are reading this post. The love I receive from you my friends refreshes me and enables me to love God more and more and to love back.

One of the commentaries that I read makes a comparison of God’s treatment of us as Christ pays with His life any debt that we, slaves to sin, may be owing.  Interesting point and worth a moment of prayer perhaps.

What may be worth more pondering is the choice of this Epistle for the feast of St. Albert the Great, the patron of scientists and teacher of St. Aquinas.  He is quoted as saying, “it is by the path of love, which is Charity, that God draws near to us, and we to God.”

It comes full circle: Christ’s willingness to free us from slavery, surely primarily an Act of Love, St. Albert’s vision in seeing the connection of love to life—his of science and great knowledge, and in the Gospel, the prophecy of Jesus of the fulfillment of this in his “suffering and rejection.”

Where is the place of Love in our lives?  How is it the connection of God to us everyday?  What, if any, suffering and rejection do we experience in trying to live these connections?

I want to share this famous story here. Abbe Pierre, the famous rag picker of Paris, lived in a large house with a dozen religious brothers. In the middle of January, when ice and snow covered the ground, a poor freezing family rang the doorbell of the large house and begged for some corner to sleep in; otherwise they would all freeze to death.

Abbe Pierre was worried because every room in the house was filled. Only the little chapel was not. So he took the Blessed Sacrament from the altar and carried it up the attic, where it as too cold to live. Then he bedded down the family in that only prayer room in the house, which was Christ’s own room, so to speak.

The next morning, the brothers were shocked to see the Blessed Sacrament gone and a family sleeping on the floor. They were horrified at this disrespect for the Lord’s room and were angry when Abbe Pierre told them that he had placed the Blessed Sacrament in the attic, where snow was blowing in through the roof tiles. Then the Abbe explained, “My brothers, Christ feels no cold or heat in the Blessed Sacrament. But Christ in people feels everything they do!”

The Lord is waiting for all of us to thank Him for the many blessings He has given us!


 

In today’s gospel we hear of the ten lepers crying out to Jesus to show “pity” on them. They are the poorest of the poor, most unclean of the unclean.  The untouchables.  The pitiful ones.

“…when He sees (saw) them” He mercifully, generously and lovingly heals all ten. Luke tells us that one of them, finding himself cured, turned back praising God and, prostrating himself, thanked Jesus. This passage is about gratitude. One side of the coin is showing gratitude, the other is failure to show it. In any relationship, recognizing the need for gratitude and saying thanks enhances the connection.

When it seems that all we can see is the effect of discrimination, corrupt politicians, and yes, even the policy of our governments, it’s hard to see beyond it all to the reign of God. When we go through difficult times, when society ignores us, it’s hard to see God’s plan. Like the nine lepers, it is hard to see that, because of Christ, we have been healed. It’s hard to look past this world of pain and see that Christ is bringing in a new world, that in heaven there won’t be all this oppression, suffering and pain. We read that, even if society doesn’t see the lepers, Christ sees them!

If you had been one of the ten lepers who were healed in today’s gospel, would you or I have returned to say “Thank You” to Jesus? I wonder. He told them to go and show themselves to the priests, which was the customary action which the law required for lepers who had been cleansed. Perhaps they planned to come back and thank Jesus after they had seen the priests?

The leper who returned to give thanks to Jesus was a Samaritan, despised by the Jews, which made him the oppressed of the oppressed. Despite all this, he saw past the way the world looked at him and recognized in Jesus’ look the one, who gave him dignity and promised him that dignity had been restored in him.

As for the Samaritan who was regarded as a foreigner and not one of the Jewish “chosen people,” he took time to come to Jesus and thank Him. Would you or I have done the same? It’s something to think about.
The most important relationship for us to nurture is our relationship with our creator God through Jesus. Expressing gratitude brings joy to both the receiver and the giver. Gratitude is most important in bringing us closer to God through Jesus. Any failure on our part to express words of gratitude in this spiritual setting places us alongside the nine who disappointed Jesus. We have much for which to be thankful. The Lord is waiting for all of us to thank Him for the many blessings He has given us!

Our real need is Humility


                               

We need, today, to learn another lesson: that Christ calls us to be servants of one another, and that this service will be a most blessed one, a new and fuller liberty from sin and self. At first it may appear hard. But, if once we learn that to be nothing before God is the glory of the creature, the spirit of Jesus, the joy of heaven, we shall welcome with our whole heart the discipline we may have in serving even those who trouble us.

Life seems like a contradiction at times. God grants everyone unique personalities and talents. This is wonderful, as we need all kinds of talents to help our families and communities to function and to grow. We need good mothers and fathers, teachers, nurses, those who can farm the land, and the list goes on.

The contradiction is when we consider how much we should publicize our successes. In some environments it is the way to get a promotion in higher education. As an example, there is a tradition of letting your peers and administrators know about your success. How can you do so and yet remain “a humble servant?”

We have the example of Christ to follow. Scripture tells us that Christ was the son of God. He did not flaunt His talents and abilities before others. He used these abilities for others, not for Himself and always gave recognition to His Father in heaven.

As Christians, each of us has a unique function to accomplish, carrying out the mission of Christ. Let us do so willingly, with a joyful heart and always to give honor to our Father.

This what Jesus said to the disciples who were thinking of being great in the Kingdom, and of sitting on His right hand and His left.  Seek not; ask not for exaltation; that is God’s work. Jesus means this, we all know. Just as water ever seeks and fills the lowest place, so the moment God finds the creature abased and empty, in flows His glory and power. It is godlike, however, to humble ourselves, to become servants of all! Lets us study the words we have been given, until our hearts are filled with the one thought: my real need is humility. Here is the path to the higher life: down, lower down!

The good that we do, the ways we serve each other, all the ways we give of ourselves and our gifts – we do this not in expectation of some reward, but because this is now our nature. This is who we are, transformed in Christ! Again, somewhere along the way we turned this around to thinking we will like ourselves better, and feel better about ourselves, if we act in the ways that get us the rewards of recognition, praise, status, a raise, or whatever else we think motivates us. Our transformed life is the reward! It is not external to us, not a fleeting feeling or transient title or trophy.

The Saints, like St. Frances Xavier Cabrini whose life we celebrate today, kept their eyes on God, not their own successes and failure. It is that kind of focus that allows us to continue, day after day through the challenges of life and not be discouraged, but be continually converted and transformed. As we hold our gaze on Christ, not our own footsteps, our hearts are also transformed.

For God will not be outdone in generosity!


 

Our readings today highlight God’s generosity to those who give to God “until it hurts!”  God, in turn, is even more generous than they are.

We will take examples of the two poor widows we read about today. In the first reading, from the first Book of Kings, Elijah, who is on the run from the wicked King Ahab, finds a widow who is picking up sticks for her last meal for her and her son. Elijah is hungry, and asks the woman to please make him a little cake. He soon finds out that the woman has nothing in the house except a small bit of flour and oil. It’s going to be the last meal for herself and her son before they die! Nevertheless, out of this little bit, she feeds Elijah first. He tells her that, as a reward, her oil and flour will last until the rains come again (which turns out to be a whole year!). God will not be outdone in generosity!
Mark’s Gospel also narrates about another widow. It is a really moving story about Jesus in the Temple, observing those who are putting in collection money. He’s really impressed with a poor widow who puts in two copper coins, all she has to live on. In her humility, she probably hoped that no one would see this, since there were many rich people around her putting in large sums. Far be it from Jesus to discourage the wealthy from making big donations! He’s merely pointing out how more admirable is sacrificial giving than just giving from what one has left over!

“This poor widow has put in more than all.”

Jesus shows that God is not really interested in the size of the gift (nor, even, how much good might be accomplished by it). What concerns God is the intention of the giver. The poor widow gave a great gift because she kept nothing back for herself, whereas the wealthy gave large sums from their abundance and so, in effect, gave very little.

Jesus had a soft spot in His heart for widows. They were the most vulnerable people in the society of His time, for there was no “social security” of any kind, and no husband to protect and provide for them. He has just finished a scorching condemnation of the religious authorities for their insensitivity to the plight of these widows. Instead of helping them, they were taking away what little they had through unbearable temple taxes.

God approves of sacrificial giving. How good are we at this kind of generosity? This includes adjusting our schedules to help some person or cause in need of our time and talent

Can we ever forget the image of the poor widow putting into the treasury all that she had? Even in her poverty she did not neglect to make a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God for blessings received. And we can surmise that this widow would know the Lord’s tender mercies, for God will not be outdone in generosity.

The generosity of this poor widow is both an inspiration and a challenge to us as we strive to be good stewards of the blessings we have received from the Lord. As the Lord has been good to us, so too must we be good to others, sharing generously and lovingly with our family, our Church, and the poor.

Our model for generosity of course, is the Lord Jesus. He became poor so that we might become infinitely wealthy. Our Lord gave everything He had to give by stretching out His arms upon the cross so that we might know the joys of heaven. May our care and generosity be nothing less than wholehearted, following the example of our Lord and the example of the poor widows in our readings today.

Update from Uganda Youth Ministry Association and Home Sweet Orphanage.


I wish to update you on what is going on at Home Sweet Orphanage and Uganda Youth Ministry Association.

In the last post, I told you about Emmanuel, one of the children at the Orphanage who as sitting for his primary leaving Examinations. Emma successfully finished his Exams and he will now be at the Orphanage full-time for the next 3 months as he awaits the results of the Exams. Hopefully he will be of help to the matrons in performing some of the tasks at the Orphanage like keeping the compound clean, collecting firewood and fetching water.

Angella’s Confirmation is on Sunday, 18th November at Kitende Parish. I will be traveling there to have a day with her and the other children. Yesterday, I was able to send her the money she needed to shop for her white dress and shoes. Thank you all who sent in a donation towards that cause.

Still from your kind donations, all the medical bills that were pending have been paid and some more food purchased. Thank you, thank you so much.

All the children are healthy and send you their warm greetings.

Uganda Youth Ministry Association will be hosting a renowned Catholic Youth Minister and Hip hop music artist. Joe Melendrez and his companion, Lance, will be in Uganda 13th-19th December 2012.

Joe will be coming to boost youth ministry in Uganda, and will as well officiate at the Christmas party for Home Sweet Orphanage. He will hold a day’s workshop for youth at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel-Busega Parish, as well as perform a live concert at LIDIA MACCHI youth centre. The theme of the workshop is “The Role of Youth in the Church”.  How beautiful it will be to let our youth here in Uganda know that the Church needs them, and that there is no Church without them. With the Advent of the many Pentecostal Churches in the towns of Uganda, the Catholic Church faces a challenge of keeping their ministry to the youth vibrant, or lose them to these other churches.  I anticipate that Joe’s performances and presentations will spark a new life in the ministry to youth in our local parishes. More details HERE

Uganda Youth Ministry Association operates on the kind donations from some of you. The success of these events greatly depends on the charity of you my friends.  We do not want to deny any interested youth of Uganda a chance to be part of these events, so we are not charging any fee for attendance to any of the events.  This leaves us constrained in meeting some of the basic requirements like hiring the venue, hiring the needed equipment, making the necessary advertising , accommodating and transporting the two visitors when they are finally here. On top of all this is the need for funds to organize the Children’s Christmas party at the Orphanage.

Lance and Joe have already paid for their flight fares, though Joe would be happy if we were able to contribute a portion to his fare. As I was doing a quick summing this morning, I found we would need at least $2000 for a successful Children’s party and youth events.

It is for this reason that I am humbly requesting that you remember to pray for the success of these events and that you bless us with your donations.  I pray that each one of you can be able to give a bit more extra than you have given us in the past. Share this post with your friends and family, and personally ask them to donate to us for this cause.

T o donate, visit YOU TURNS and remember to live a comment stating how much goes to the Orphanage, and how much goes to the youth ministry.

Thank you so much and may God bless you and keep you.

 

UPDATE: I just got an email informing me that our Lay Dominican group will be meeting on the same day Angella will be confirmed. I have to be at this meeting to prepare for our first profession. This means I will not be able to go and be present for Angella’s confirmation. Hopefully Sarah (my wife) will go and be with her.