An old man in Florida calls his son in New York and says, “I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; fifty one years of misery is enough.”
“Pop, what are you talking about?” The son screams.
“We can't stand the sight of each other any longer,” the old man said. “We're sick and tired of each other, and I'm sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Chicago and tell her.” And he hangs up.
Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone, “Like heck! They're getting a divorce?” she shouts. I'll take care of this.” She calls Florida immediately, and screams at the old man, “You are NOT getting divorced! Don't do a single thing until I get there. I'm calling my brother back and we'll both be there tomorrow. Until then don't do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?” And she hangs up.
The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. “Okay,” he says, “they are coming for Thanksgiving and paying their own way!”
Thanksgiving is approaching. Thanksgiving is the time for us to remember that each of us belongs to a family and we believe in God. We also belong to a nation under God. We believe that our country was born under the providence of God. At thanksgiving we gather around our parents and family to thank one another and to give thanks to God. As a priest, one thing I want to avoid is to give people the impression that I am too busy that I don’t have time for them. A few days ago, I appreciate to hear a staff telling me, “Father, I have noticed that you are busy, but you always give time and attention to people when they want to talk to you.” Many of us are busy, in fact very busy. We have a lot of tasks, activities and responsibilities to fulfill. Sometime we are so busy that we don’t have time for our families. We don’t have time for our children. We don’t have time for our spouses. We don’t have time for church, and we don’t have time for God. Statistic indicates that at least 50% of Catholics are not attending church regularly. They are busy doing something else. You and your families are here every Sunday. This doesn’t mean that you are not busy. But you have time for God. Your relationship with God is important to you and to your families.
There are different kinds of relationship. Some relationship is close and intimate. Others are not so close. Some relationships are important and others are not so important. We stay in touch to keep these relationships alive but we don’t invest much of our times, energy and resources for the non- important relationships. We do, however, invest times, energy and resources in relationships that are important to us. We constantly stay in touch with them. And we are more willing to make sacrifices to maintain these important relationships.
Our relationship with God is important. And the evidences of this relationship are seen in two ways. The first one is in prayer, and the second is in sacrificial offerings. The readings of the Mass this Sunday give us two examples. The story from the first reading recounts the faith of the woman who is in a perilous situation. As a widow in a patriarchal society, she has very few resources to call upon. She doesn’t have the security of her husband. But when the Prophet comes to her asking for support, despite her perilous situation, she is willing to provide for the prophet before attending to her own needs and those of her son. The widow is so good and generous because she is a strong believer. She believes in God and her relationship with God is important to her. She follows the ancient religious obligation of hospitality to respond to people in need. This is the evidence of her faith. She is constantly in touch with God. She is a woman of prayer. Prayer helps her to stay in touch with God. Prayer helps her to be sensitive to the needs of others. And prayer helps her to be a generous person.
The second example is from the Gospel reading. Jesus is sitting with his disciples, oppositting the treasury, observing the crowd put money into the treasury when they come into the synagogues to pray. Instead of paying attention to God, many of them are busy to impress others by showing off their wealth and elegant dresses. None of them catches Jesus’ attention except the poor widow. The widow puts her last coins into the temple collection box and has no money left. Jesus commends her that she gives of her necessities. She doesn’t give something of her surplus. She gives of her necessities. She comes to the temple to pray and she makes her sacrificial offering. She gives everything she has to God. This is another evidence of a person who is deeply connected with God. She considers her relationship to God is more important than anything else.
The willingness to make a sacrificial offering to God is the evidence that we have a deep and strong relationship with God. God is important in our life. We usually give out of our abundance. Many of us give out of genuine generosity. When we see others who are in need, we want to help. Some people give out of guilt. They might be giving to satisfy some kind of debt they owe or injustice they had done to others. Some might give for tax purposes. All of us give freely to those we love regardless of whether we have enough for ourselves. We will manage it. The sacrificial offerings we give to God prove that God is important to us. It is the proof of our love for God.
The examples of giving in the readings today are religiously inspired. Religious inspired giving comes from the prayerful hearts of those who have reached deep into their relationship with God. They are able to make sacrificial offerings because they know God and trust that God is going to provide for them everything they need. They believe that they take care of God’s business and God will take care of theirs. They will never be in want of anything. What belongs to God belong to them. And what belongs to them belongs to God.
A few years ago, a parishioner came into the church’s office and handed me a check for two thousand dollars. He said he and his family were moving to another city. They just sold their house in Katy and he wanted to give ten percent of it to the church. I was speechless to receive his contribution to the church. He said, “I and my family are very fortunate. I have never been wanting for anything. I was a convert. Since I was a young man, I have been taught to tithe to the church ten percent of my income, no matter how much I made. If I got dime, I gave a penny to the church. If I made a dollar, I gave ten cents to the church. And now we have sold the house for 200,000.00 dollars, and we give 2,000 dollars to the church. I have been doing this since I was 17 years old. And I have never been wanting for anything. My family always has what we need.