Almsgiving Accompanied by Righteousness, 9th Saturday (I), June 10, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Saturday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of St. Landry, Bishop
June 10, 2017
Tob 12:1.5-15.20, Tob 13:2.6-8, Mk 12:38-44

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below:

 

The following points were attempted in today’s homily:

  • Today as we come to the end of our weeklong study of the Book of Tobit, we can ponder it’s global lessons. I’d like to focus on three.
  • The first is about healing, and specifically healing those who were virtuous in order to bring them to greater faith. We see this in the healing of Tobit of his blindness and the healing of Sarah in her capacity for marital love. The Archangel Raphael is the humble, quiet protagonist of God’s merciful medicine. His name literally means “God heals” or “Healing of God,” and we’ve seen throughout our meditation on this work this week how God brought about his healing in each of them. Similarly God wishes to heal us of the maladies that prevent us from growing in faith. He wants to help us to become stronger and just like he had a medicine already in mind for Tobit and for Sarah so he has it ready for us and, at the most fundamental level, has already willed it in what his Son won for us on Calvary.
  • The second aspect of this book is how the Archangel Raphael, pretending to be a human being with experience on the route, accompanied Tobit’s son and Sarah’s eventual husband Tobias on his journey to Media to retrieve the fortune Tobit had left there. We could say he was Tobias’ guide on the journey, safely leading him back and forth, helping him find love, and helping him become a cooperator with God in the healing of both his wife and his father. On our pilgrimage of life God sends us our guardian angels in order to guide us. We’re never alone. We’re always accompanied. And just like Raphael brought the prayers of Tobit and Sarah before God’s glory, so our angels bring ours. They’re similarly part of the response to those prayers as well.
  • Third, we see what our response to God’s generosity ought to be. The Archangel Raphael explains it to Tobit today. It involves both praise and thanks to God for his extraordinary giving to us and then our paying it forward in generous almsgiving tied to a holy life. Raphael says about praising the Lord, “Thank God! Give him the praise and the glory. Before all the living, acknowledge the many good things he has done for you, by blessing and extolling his name in song. Honor and proclaim God’s deeds, and do not be slack in praising him. … The works of God are to be declared and made known. Praise them with due honor.” Then he turns to the way God’s generosity needs to transform us into his generous and holy image. “Do good, and evil will not find its way to you. Prayer and fasting are good, but better than either is almsgiving accompanied by righteousness. A little with righteousness is better than abundance with wickedness. It is better to give alms than to store up gold; for almsgiving saves one from death and expiates every sin. Those who regularly give alms shall enjoy a full life; but those habitually guilty of sin are their own worst enemies.” What a treatise on moral theology! It’s not enough to give alms, but to bind almost to a life that’s just toward God and others. Many give to charity today but lived in a debauched way. As Raphael says, “A little with righteousness is better than abundance with wickedness.” It’s a both/and. Then he clarifies that we should seek to give alms more than to store up gold. Would that every Christian seek in this way to be rich in what matters to God.
  • This third consideration leads us to today’s Gospel, in which Jesus contrasts the scribes and a poor widow that he saw in the Temple portico. Many of the scribes were doing things for show, going through the external motions, looking for greetings, for honor, and who were reciting prayers for pretexts in order to make the types of friendships that they would be able to exploit to take advantage of others. The way giving money worked is that there was an upside tuba-shaped box into which people would deposit their givings to the temple. Since all money was in coins, those who put in a lot would make a big racket. Everyone noticed.  In contrast to them, Jesus shows the widow who put in her two lepta, which were extremely thin and worth combined 2/3 of a penny. They would make almost no sounds at all. Her generosity, however, was the one Jesus praised. Hers was the almsgiving that we recall 2,000 years later. It would have been easy for her, being so poor, to have just given one of the two lepta and kept the other for herself, but she gave both. She was all in. God wants us to give generously like she did, because it’s through that generosity, it’s through that openness, that we open ourselves to receive his generosity in return.
  • Someone who lived with this type of generosity is the saint we celebrate today:  St. Landry, Bishop of Paris in the middle of the Seventh Century. Not many people — outside of Louisiana, where there is a whole country named after him and a huge Church in Opelousas where I celebrated my tenth Mass a week or so after my ordination — have a devotion to him, but in Paris there’s a chapel dedicated to him at Notre Dame Cathedral not to mention a beautiful one in St. Germain L’Auxerrois, where his relics were interred until they were destroyed during the French Revolution. St. Landry is famous in particular for caring for the poor and the sick. He sold all of his own personal property and much of what the Church had to care for the poor of Paris during a famine and, because there were no hospitals to speak of at the time, he built the first, which he dedicated to St. Christopher, because so many of the sick were pilgrims who had no family to care for them. Eventually this hospital grew to become the huge institution called Hotel Dieu, God’s hotel, where he sought to treat patients like they were Christ saying to him, “I will ill and you cared for me.” He gave alms generously with righteousness, praising and thanksgiving God on the one hand and caring for him in disguise on the other. The liturgical prayers for his solemnity in the 1738 Paris Missal (linked below, which I’ll eventually translate and post) point to his charity based on the charity he received.
  • So today as we approach this altar, we do so with generous gratitude and faith. We do so seeking healing from what St. Ignatius of Antioch called in 107 “the medicine of immortality,” Christ in the Eucharist. We do so seeking accompaniment from the One who promised, “I will be with you always until the end of the age.” We do so offering ourselves generously to the Lord who loved us enough to give himself totally to us in his Body and Blood under sacramental signs.

The readings for today’s Mass were:

Reading 1 TB 12:1, 5-15, 20

Tobit called his son Tobiah and said to him,
“Son, see to it that you give what is due to the man
who made the journey with you; give him a bonus too.”
So he called Raphael and said,
“Take as your wages half of all that you have brought back,
and go in peace.”Raphael called the two men aside privately and said to them:
“Thank God! Give him the praise and the glory.
Before all the living,
acknowledge the many good things he has done for you,
by blessing and extolling his name in song.
Honor and proclaim God’s deeds,
and do not be slack in praising him.
A king’s secret it is prudent to keep,
but the works of God are to be declared and made known.
Praise them with due honor.
Do good, and evil will not find its way to you.
Prayer and fasting are good,
but better than either is almsgiving accompanied by righteousness.
A little with righteousness is better than abundance with wickedness.
It is better to give alms than to store up gold;
for almsgiving saves one from death and expiates every sin.
Those who regularly give alms shall enjoy a full life;
but those habitually guilty of sin are their own worst enemies.
“I will now tell you the whole truth;
I will conceal nothing at all from you.
I have already said to you,
‘A king’s secret it is prudent to keep,
but the works of God are to be made known with due honor.’
I can now tell you that when you, Tobit, and Sarah prayed,
it was I who presented and read the record of your prayer
before the Glory of the Lord;
and I did the same thing when you used to bury the dead.
When you did not hesitate to get up
and leave your dinner in order to go and bury the dead,
I was sent to put you to the test.
At the same time, however,
God commissioned me to heal you and your daughter-in-law Sarah.
I am Raphael, one of the seven angels
who enter and serve before the Glory of the Lord.”
“So now get up from the ground and praise God.
Behold, I am about to ascend to him who sent me;
write down all these things that have happened to you.”

Responsorial Psalm TB 13:2, 6EFGH, 7, 8

R. (1b) Blessed be God, who lives for ever.
He scourges and then has mercy;
he casts down to the depths of the nether world,
and he brings up from the great abyss.
No one can escape his hand.
R. Blessed be God, who lives for ever.
So now consider what he has done for you,
and praise him with full voice.
Bless the Lord of righteousness,
and exalt the King of ages.
R. Blessed be God, who lives for ever.
In the land of my exile I praise him
and show his power and majesty to a sinful nation.
R. Blessed be God, who lives for ever.
Bless the Lord, all you his chosen ones,
and may all of you praise his majesty.
Celebrate days of gladness, and give him praise.
R. Blessed be God, who lives for ever.

Alleluia MT 5:3

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are the poor in spirit;
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 12:38-44

In the course of his teaching Jesus said,
“Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes
and accept greetings in the marketplaces,
seats of honor in synagogues,
and places of honor at banquets.
They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext,
recite lengthy prayers.
They will receive a very severe condemnation.”
He sat down opposite the treasury
and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury.
Many rich people put in large sums.
A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents.
Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them,
“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.”

 

 

 

 

 

To view the propers for the Solemnity of St. Landry from the 1738 Paris Missal, please click below: 

St. Landry Liturgical Propers

To see a translation of the propers in English, please click below: 

St. Landry Propers Translation