Giving to God our Whole Livelihood, 34th Monday, November 25, 2013

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Monday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of St. Catharine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr
November 25, 2013
Dan 1:1-6.8-20, Dn 3, Lk 21:1-4

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

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today in the opening prayer for St. Catharine of Alexandria, we asked God through her intercession that we might have faith and constancy so that we might spend ourselves in his service. In her life, as well as in the Gospel and the first reading, we see three different ways in which God wants us to spend ourselves, generously to the end.
  • In the Gospel we have the beautiful scene of the widow who placed her two lepta — the equivalent of 2/3 of a penny today — into the “open tuba” so that it would roll town in the bronze spiral into the secure lock-box. Many others were putting huge sums of coins (all currency was metallic) and “making a lot of noise,” but Jesus didn’t remark about their gifts. He noted the very meager contribution of the woman was far greater because she sacrificed what she needed, whereas they sacrificed from what they didn’t need. It would have been understandable if this very poor woman had given nothing or even just one of the two lepta, but she gave both and Jesus praised her. The point is not how much we contribute, but how much of a sacrifice it is; not how much we give but how much we have left over. This woman sacrificed her entire livelihood, spending herself and what she had in the service of the Lord. There’s a great lesson here for us. Catholics in the United States on average give 0.7 percent of their income to God, an average of $2.36 a week. For some this is a sacrifice. For most Catholics in the United States, it’s not. We should give in such a way that Jesus would be tempted to pull the saints aside in heaven and point out the way we are spending ourselves in his service, seeking to build up his Kingdom, the Kingdom we celebrated yesterday on the Solemnity of Christ the King.
  • We see a second lesson in today’s first reading about Daniel, Anaiah, Azariah, Mishael who made the courageous choice to risk their lives not to eat the food of the Babylonian king. They didn’t want to eat his food because often it was from the sacrifices to idols. Even though the food and wine would have doubtless been the best in the entire kingdom, they refused it because, even as they were in the king’s service, they were intent to spend themselves faithfully in the Lord’s service even to the point of martyrdom. Later on, Azariah, Ananiah and Mishael refused to worship a 30 foot high golden statue Nebuchadnezzar made, they were thrown into a burning hot furnace by the king in a rage. They went with faith and the Lord miraculously saved their lives. They teach us what total dedication to God with faith and constancy is all about.
  • Lastly we have the feast today of St. Catharine of Alexandria. Most of what we know about her was written 500 years after she died as a virgin martyr, so it’s not particularly reliable, but that legend about her was highly influential throughout the Middle Ages and could, of course, be based on truthful oral traditions. It says that when she was still unbaptized, she became aware of the Lord and dedicated herself to him as a virgin — an absolutely almost unbelievable thing for a non-Christian who would look at marriage and motherhood as essentials for a happy life. She was willing to spend her whole life in the Lord’s service and consecrating herself to his love. She likewise knew that to be useful to God, she needed to study so that she could refute those who thought Christianity was an absurd superstition. She studied so hard that she became a genuine expert in philosophy and theology and even defeated some of the emperor Maxentius’ brightest minds. She’s also been the patron saint of female students for that reason. When she was exposed as a Christian and sentenced for martyrdom, Maxentius offered to commute her sentence if she married him, but she was faithful and constant in her total self-gift to God, and gave her life for Him who gave His life for her.
  • Today as we come to this Mass, we encounter Christ who totally and perseveringly spend himself in our service. The only worthy response to so great a love is to sacrifice ourselves in response, like the widow in the Gospel, like Daniel, Azariah, Ananiah and Mishael, and like St. Catharine.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
DN 1:1-6, 8-20

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, king of Judah,
King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came
and laid siege to Jerusalem.
The Lord handed over to him Jehoiakim, king of Judah,
and some of the vessels of the temple of God;
he carried them off to the land of Shinar,
and placed the vessels in the temple treasury of his god.The king told Ashpenaz, his chief chamberlain,
to bring in some of the children of Israel of royal blood
and of the nobility, young men without any defect,
handsome, intelligent and wise,
quick to learn, and prudent in judgment,
such as could take their place in the king’s palace;
they were to be taught the language and literature of the Chaldeans;
after three years’ training they were to enter the king’s service.
The king allotted them a daily portion of food and wine
from the royal table.
Among these were men of Judah: Daniel, Hananiah,
Mishael, and Azariah.

But Daniel was resolved not to defile himself
with the king’s food or wine;
so he begged the chief chamberlain to spare him this defilement.
Though God had given Daniel the favor and sympathy
of the chief chamberlain, he nevertheless said to Daniel,
“I am afraid of my lord the king;
it is he who allotted your food and drink.
If he sees that you look wretched
by comparison with the other young men of your age,
you will endanger my life with the king.”
Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief chamberlain
had put in charge of Daniel, Hananiah,
Mishael, and Azariah,
“Please test your servants for ten days.
Give us vegetables to eat and water to drink.
Then see how we look in comparison with the other young men
who eat from the royal table,
and treat your servants according to what you see.”
He acceded to this request, and tested them for ten days;
after ten days they looked healthier and better fed
than any of the young men who ate from the royal table.
So the steward continued to take away
the food and wine they were to receive, and gave them vegetables.
To these four young men God gave knowledge and proficiency
in all literature and science,
and to Daniel the understanding of all visions and dreams.
At the end of the time the king had specified for their preparation,
the chief chamberlain brought them before Nebuchadnezzar.
When the king had spoken with all of them,
none was found equal to Daniel, Hananiah,
Mishael, and Azariah;
and so they entered the king’s service.
In any question of wisdom or prudence which the king put to them,
he found them ten times better
than all the magicians and enchanters in his kingdom.

Responsorial Psalm
DN 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56

R. (52b) Glory and praise for ever!
“Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever;
And blessed is your holy and glorious name,
praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages.”
R. Glory and praise for ever!
“Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory,
praiseworthy and glorious above all forever.”
R. Glory and praise for ever!
“Blessed are you on the throne of your Kingdom,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.”
R. Glory and praise for ever!
“Blessed are you who look into the depths
from your throne upon the cherubim,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.”
R. Glory and praise for ever!
“Blessed are you in the firmament of heaven,
praiseworthy and glorious forever.”
R. Glory and praise for ever!

Gospel
LK 21:1-4

When Jesus looked up he saw some wealthy people
putting their offerings into the treasury
and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins.
He said, “I tell you truly,
this poor widow put in more than all the rest;
for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth,
but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.”