32nd Sunday Year B
Theme of the week: When I give or serve, do I do so for the glory of God? Or are public recognition, glory and self-gratification my motivation?
The Second Reading continues last week’s message, by comparing Christ’s priesthood with that of the human priest. In the old annual Jewish ritual of yom kippur, the priest sprinkles animal blood in the temple. By contrast,
- Christ is in heaven, and not in a man-made sanctuary, the temple.
- Being a heavenly being, Christ is not limited by time, and hence He does not have to make the same sacrifice year after year, again and again.
- Whereas the human priest sprinkles an animal’s blood in an annual ritual, Christ spilled his own Blood for the redemption of all humanity – once and for all.
Christ gave his life for the redemption of humankind and for the glory of God. We too are asked to make sacrifice for God. Ponder over this for a moment …
When we give to the Lord, we are asked to give without reservation. In the First Reading, the woman used up her last remaining flour and oil to make the prophet Elijah some bread. The Lord rewarded her generosity by giving her a never-ending supply of flour and oil. In the second half of the Gospel, the poor widow gave her last two copper coins to the temple. The two copper coins were everything she had (verse 44). She could have kept one coin for her own use but she gave both away – an extremely generous act applauded by Jesus.
To exercise generosity like these takes great trust and faith in the Lord – faith and trust that in spite of givers giving away all that they have, the Lord will provide for them. As promised by Jesus in Luke 12: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” (Luke 12:22-23,29-31)
On the other side of the coin, in first half of this week’s Gospel, Jesus criticises the hypocritical scribes, whose motivation for worshipping God stems from their desire for self glorification: “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets!” (verse 38-39) This is a recurring theme in the Gospel. For example, in a parallel passage in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said this of the scribes and Pharisees: “They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honour at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi.” (Mt 23:5-7) Earlier in the Book of Matthew, Jesus said, “So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.” (Mt 6:2-5)
While these warnings may refer to the religious leaders of Jesus’ times, it is equally relevant to all of us. Let us reflect: when I carry out God’s works, do I do so for the glory of God; or do I do so for reasons of vanity? Are public recognition, glory and self-gratification my motivation? If so, as Jesus said, I have received my reward.
May we always give generously to the Lord, never counting the cost nor the reward. Amen.