Monday November 24, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Daniel 1:1-6, 8-20) Gospel (St. Luke 21:1-4)
In the Gospel reading, we hear about the widow who places two small coins into the temple treasury, and Jesus says that she had given more than anyone else because she gave out of her livelihood everything that she had, whereas most everybody else was giving of their surplus. At the same time, in the first reading, we see the young men whom Nebuchadnezzar had chosen to enter into the royal service, to teach them, and so on, and we see them doing basically the same thing. Here they were exiles in a foreign land and now they are being pressed into service, but still they were determined that they would not defile themselves. They were still going to be obedient to God and they were willing to put their lives on the line for that: to ask, for instance, that they would not be required to eat the food that would have defiled them, to make sure that they stood out differently. Not that they were trying to make themselves stand out, but rather they were trying to be obedient to God. And so, they were putting their very lives on the line.
In fact, as we read further along, we find that the three young men, Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael, were thrown into the furnace because they were disobedient to the king and they would not bow down and worship his statue. Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den because he would pray to God and he would not pray to the gods of the Chaldeans. And so we see that these young men also gave everything that they had. They were obedient to God, even obedient to the point of entering into the royal service of someone who was a dictator and who had come in and destroyed their own homeland. Now they were entering into his service, but that was part of God’s Will for them so they were willing to do that. At the same time, they were not willing, just because they were in the service of a pagan king, to take on the pagan practices.
So too for us, then, we need to look at our generosity toward God. Not necessarily with money, although for Americans that is a pretty important thing to look at. We are more than generous with our own selves, making sure we have all kinds of fancy and expensive things and way, way more than what we need; yet what we give to God is a mere pittance. In fact, it is well known in all the statistics that have been published that Catholics are the most wealthy among Christians and they are the ones who give the least to their church among all Christians in America. But it is not about money; it is about generosity; it is about the disposition of the heart.
We need to look also at the way that we live. How generous are we being with God in our daily lives? Here we see these four young men who are living in a pagan society and yet refused to bow to that part. So too, we are living in a pagan society for all practical purposes and how much are we giving into the pagan way of life? While all the people of Israel probably continued (most of them, anyway) to profess their belief in God, many of them did not live that belief in God. These four young men were willing to die for their belief in God. They were not going to defile themselves by living according to the pagan ways even though they lived in a pagan land. Well, for us the same must be true. Most Catholics these days are willing to live a pagan life. They continue to go to Mass on Sunday, they continue to profess their faith in God, but they do not live it because most people around them do not live that way. And they begin to live according to the ways of those around them.
We cannot be like that. We have to be willing to live our lives for God, to put the two copper coins of our lives into God’s temple treasury, to give not out of our surplus – that is, not out of the ease of our lives, not to make things easy for ourselves by being like everyone else – but by giving of our very livelihood – that is, by putting everything on the line knowing that it might cost us if we are going to live according to the faith that we profess. That is the generosity God is looking for from us. Not to be arrogant or blatant about the way that we live things – that is, not forcing it down people’s throats or being obnoxious – but rather being faithful to God in all things, living the truth in love. That is what the Lord is going to require from each of us. That is what is expected. And as we look at the way we live our lives, we can ask, “Am I being generous with God in the way that I live my life everyday? Am I living it for God or am I living it for myself? Am I giving to God what is simply the excess of my life or am I giving to God what is my very life itself? Am I willing to put my self on the line for God and be like the little widow who did not give out of her excess but gave out of her very need?”
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.