32ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B ON NOVEMBER 7, 2021 (R. 1: 1 kings 17: 10-16; Psalm 146: 7, 8-9, 9-10; R. 2: Hebrews 9: 24-28; Gospel: Mark 12: 38-44)
FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
In 2010, I released my first ever music album (DVD), a collection of some of my liturgical music compositions titled “Songs of Victory by Fr. Emmanuel I. Ochigbo.” During the preparatory stage, my friend who was the director of the video, came to supervise the rehearsals. After watching me a few times, he asked, “Fr Emmanuel, what facial expression do you expect from those who will watch your video?” I told him, “Smiling faces of course!” He then said, “If you need smiles from your audience, give them smiles while you sing and dance.” I remember vividly how challenging it was for me to sing, dance and smile at the same time. At some points, I focused on the singing and dancing while I forgot to smile. At other points, I remembered to smile but I forgot either the correct dancing steps or some lines of the song. Difficult as it was, I refused to give up until I got it, because I needed the smile from my audience. If you need it, give it away!
The three readings for today’s Mass teach us generosity in a way that comes across as paradoxical, namely “If you need something, give it away!” Three important figures in the three readings gave away what they needed the most. In the Gospel passage, the poor widow in her poverty gave away the last two coins she had to live on. In the second reading, Jesus Christ who needed life for himself and for us sacrificed his life on the cross. In the first reading, the widow of Zarephath gave her last handful of flour and little oil to the Prophet Elijah. After giving away what she needed the most, the widow of Zarephath did not lack any food as the prophet foretold. The poor widow in the Gospel passage after giving all she had to live on gained divine recognition which always carries along with it all that we need. Christ sacrificed his life, but he gained it back along with our salvation, and he was glorified above all else (cf. Philippians 2: 3- 11). If you need it, give it away!
There is that human instinct in us to keep what we need to ourselves, but experience continues to show that what we keep, we end up losing, and what we give away we gain in many folds. It is not uncommon to hear people make such complaints as “My husband does not love me,” “My wife does not respect me,” “My colleagues do not care about me,” “My neighbors do not listen to me,” etc. The message today is: Give away that which you need from people and see how it will be multiplied for you. “Respect” they say, “is reciprocal.” If you need a hug, try to give one away. St. John of the Cross is noted to have said, “Where there is no love, put love – and you will find love.” Talking about his ultimate sacrifice, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12: 24). While teaching on generosity, he said, “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure, you use it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6: 38). If you need it, give it away!
Let us take a lesson from the digestive system. In few days, we will gather for Thanksgiving dinner. Imagine how well decorated the tables can be on that day. Assuming your eyes decide to keep admiring the food on the table and refuse to let go of it to be eaten, the entire body will die of starvation. But if the eyes are generous enough to let go of it, then the entire body will be nourished. On the part of the mouth, if the sweetness lures the mouth to keep the food for days without swallowing it, it will decay in the mouth and the whole body will fall sick and eventually die. It is by chewing and swallowing that the whole body is nourished. Similarly, the stomach must be generous to release the food for digestion and excretion if the entire body must be nourished. The principle remains the same: what you release is what you gain, but what you keep is what you lose. If you need it, give it away!
Forgiveness is another gift that we first give to ourselves before we can give to others. Think of how restless you have been when you denied people forgiveness. It felt like you were punishing them. But when eventually you decided to let go, you realized how much you needed it. It is said that to forgive someone is to set a prisoner free and realizing that you were the prisoner. And so, my dearly beloved in Christ, if you need it, give it away!
Let us conclude with the prayer of peace, which is often associated with St. Francis:
Lord, make me a channel of your peace,
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.