My grandmother was one of the most interesting human beings I had so far encountered in life. She was such a humane and awesomely accommodating person. Her door was always open to anyone anytime, any day. As a little child, the best place to visit during holidays was her house. She had welcoming hands, comforting smiles, soothing voice, and a giving heart. She never spanked me or anyone I knew of. Whenever anyone of us (her numerous grandchildren who would always visit from various places) becomes insubordinate or mischievous she would wait till evening to analyze the person’s behavior by means of a story with a corresponding moral lesson.
My grandmother, Mrs. Janet died when I was just twelve years old (I always wished she lived longer) but most of her stories remain ever relevant till date. She told me a story of how they would wait for their mothers to return from some market place that was miles away from their home. According to her, anyone who intended to go to that market would normally leave very early in the morning by foot in order to make it early to this particular market that only operates every eight days. Towards evening, children whose mothers went to the market would wait at one particular spot along the way to welcome them as they come back. According to her, it used to be a very long and frightening waiting. Children become jubilant and get extremely excited when they see their mothers returning. As some mothers arrive they would encourage the children whose mothers had not arrived to cheer up and rejoice because they would soon come back. Some would even formulate their consoling words like this: “I saw your mother buying akara (bean cake) and agidi (corn-flour pudding)for you, so be happy and rejoice she is on her way coming back!” With these and similar words the children who were expecting their mothers to come back would put smiles on their faces with joy at the news that their mothers were indeed coming back and with gifts. My grandmother would also add that some mothers who had stubborn and disobedient children never came back because of the bad attitudes of those children; hence such children would have to live without a mother! The moral lesson would now be that children should behave well so that their mothers would come back from the market place.
Today being the 3rd Sunday of advent we hear the loud voice of prophet Zephaniah (3:14-18a) telling the Israelites to rejoice and exult because of the reversal of their hard times and the arrival of their King in their midst. St. Paul writing to the Philippians (4:4-7) asked them to rejoice because the Lord is at hand. This is much like in my grandmother’s story where the children waiting for the arrival of their mothers from the market place were asked to rejoice because they were already close coming home and they are coming with gifts.
On this 3rd Sunday of Advent we are called to rejoice because we can see the signs indicating the fact that the one we have been preparing and waiting for is indeed very close to us. It is like anticipating a heavy rain by means of the gathering of thick clouds. It is like seeing smoke rising up into the sky which indicates the presence of fire.
While the first and second readings today expressly tell us to rejoice and exult because the coming of the messiah is near, the gospel reading today (Luke 3:10-18) tells us that he is not yet here. We are thus expected to be doing something before he comes. This means that something must bring about his coming; some things must stand in the gap between now and the time he comes. Those things are contained in the dialogue between John the Baptist and the multitude. In Luke (3:10) The multitude asked John: “what then shall we do?”. The multitude here represents all of us who are preparing and waiting for the coming of the Lord; the multitude represents the human race for whose sake the saviour is coming. We obviously need to be active in our faith, hope and charity before the Lord comes. This can be found in the responses given by John to the multitude. He said: “He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food let him do likewise”. Tax collectors came and he gave them the direction to fill the gap (do not collect more that you should). Soldiers came, he also gave them spiritual counsel to fill the gap (do not rob people). The coming of all these people from different backgrounds and professions is an indication of the fact that we all will be judged from our employment or duty. The way and manner you carry out your career or employment will determine your assessment before God. If politicians had come to John, he would have told them play by the rules and fulfill your promises. If people in business had come to John, he would have told them not to exploit people and be fair in their dealings. If married people had come to John, he would have told them live by their marriage vows and let love rule their families. If lawyers had come to him he would have told them to uphold justice and not to distort the truth. If doctors had come to him, he would have told them to preserve lives and not to encourage the destruction of life through abortion. If Priests had gone to John, he would have told them to bring people closer to God through the word and sacraments and not to scare them through selfish interests. We can name as many professions as possible and the possible responses from John the Baptist.
The saviour is near but not yet here! The world seems to be inattentive to this. It is very unfortunate that Christmas which is supposed to be a religious celebration has turned out to be a platform for commerce and consumerism. People are so much concerned about external preparation and decorations than the needful inner spiritual preparation and waiting. John the Baptist was gracious enough to let us know the way and manner we are expected to prepare and wait. In his words our preparation and waiting should involve not only faith and hope in the coming of the messiah but also charity concretized in our alms giving especially to those who are helpless.
Actually nobody seems to understand the language of waiting as everyone seems to be in a hurry for the day to come by. For many people like the stubborn children in my grandmother’s story Jesus Christ may not come anywhere close to them because there is no place prepared for him. It thus follows that for him to come, a place should be prepared for him. As we rejoice on account of the fact that his coming is near, let us not forget also that he is coming into our hearts not in Bethlehem anymore. This song composed by Isaac Watt (1719) captures the message of today:
Joy to the World , the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.
Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.
Have a happy Sunday and a joyful week as we light the 3rd candle.
SPIRITUAL SUPER HIGHWAY ROAD CONSTRUCTION: HOMILY FOR THE 2ND SUNDAY OF ADVENT YEAR (c).
In life there is a constant need of a way or road; more so we are always attracted to better ways or good roads. Most people in some deplorable areas in the world can attest to the pains they experience navigating through bad roads. Often such roads are filled with gullies, trenches and potholes (if you like death-holes). Good road network is one of the most needful amenities that a government can give to its citizens because it enhances other forms of development as well as the economy generally.
Much as we desire good roads and enjoy them, we are today called upon to undertake a spiritual super highway road construction which will be more beneficial than the roads we use in our day-to-day life situations. Today we encounter a super abundantly skilled spiritual engineer namely John the Baptist leading us in our wilderness experience to commence an important task of constructing a formidable road which will serve as the platform for the coming of the Messiah. John the Baptist is convinced of the necessity of this super highway road construction given the prophecies of his predecessors like that of Prophet Baruch (5:1-9) in the first reading today. The recommendations are the same “filling of the valleys, leveling of the mountains and hills, and smoothening of the rough paths and edges”. Three important facts are of great importance in our reflection today: the person of the messenger (the chief road engineer), his message (the super highway road construction) and our response!
It is worth nothing that the voice of John was heard CRYING in the wilderness (desert place). Why wilderness and why the lament? Wilderness is basically not a fun place to be and it cannot be a rendezvous of enjoyment. The wilderness is actually a dry, lonely, dangerous and uninhabited place. It is a place of suffering. We could recall that in their journey to the Promised Land the people of Israel had to pass through the wilderness where they experienced hunger, thirst and even death. The psalmist described the wilderness as a dry weary land without water (Ps. 63:1; 143:6).
The voice cries and laments in the wilderness for those who are in the wilderness (not outside the wilderness). It is in this context that we see wilderness here as pointing not just to a geographical wasteland, but more poignantly, the region of sin. Hence John was crying out in the wilderness for those who are held down by wilderness per se. For those who are engulfed by sin, those who are lost, those who are walking in the shadow of death. He came to show them how to gain their liberation. When John decided to take habitation in the wilderness, he was going to confront the obstacle and to let people know the way out; he went to identify with and assist sinners. The temptation of Jesus Christ after his baptism took place in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-4). Wilderness is indeed a Place of great disconnection from God as well as a place of victory over Satan and sin.
Now in this wilderness people are required to prepare a way for God by: filling up the valleys, leveling every mountain and hill, straightening winding ways and making rough roads smooth. Filling up the valley entails replacing lost values and virtues that have made us empty before God. Leveling the mountains and hills entails removing all those obstacles hindering us from reaching to God. These are obstacles created by our pride and wayward lives. Straightening the winding ways entails living upright lives. Making smooth the rough paths entails humility and obedience to the word of God.
What we have above are very important and necessary spiritual steps that will lead us to a new life in God. In fact we are called to conversion. The lament of John and indeed the message of the advent period is that of conversion. We either get converted or risk being convicted. The question is: “how responsive are we to the message of Advent?”
When we look around in our cities what do we see? Christmas lights, Christmas trees, melodious Christmas songs and all the colours of the Christmas season. The world seems to be in a hurry for the saviour to be born, but few are attentive to the fact that a room should be prepared for him. People all over the world want to celebrate Christmas but few are ready to observe the advent. Paramount in observing advent is the need for us to know that we are in a wilderness and we ought to come out from it; hence the need for conversion, the need to construct the road through which the messiah will reach us.
Reading the very end of the prophecy of Baruch from the first reading, I see a picture of a well constructed super highway road. A road that is illuminated by powerful and beautiful lights, a road that is guarded completely leaving no room for fear of being hurt. Yes the glory of God will overwhelm and guide those who have successfully completed their road construction which is namely in our hearts.
Do have an enriching experience as you construct your own super highway road for the saviour this season.
Happy Sunday and more blessings in the coming days as we light the second candle!
THE GREAT EXPECTATION: HOMILY FOR THE 1ST SUNDAY OF ADVENT (YEAR C)
Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD
This story appealed to me and I wish to begin with it. Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room’s only window. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back. The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families; their homes; their jobs; their involvement in the military service; where they had been on vacation.
Every afternoon, when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window. The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and colour of the world outside. The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every colour and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance. As the man by the window described all these in exquisite detail, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine this picturesque scene.
One warm afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other man could not hear the band – he could see it in his mind’s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words. Days, weeks and months passed.
One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep. She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away. As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window.
The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone. Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed. It faced a blank wall. The man asked the nurse what could have compelled the deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this window. The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall. She said, ‘Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you and give you hope for the future’.
In the first reading today Jeremiah sounded more like the man by the side of the window. Jeremiah seems to be looking through the window of the future and could see the better days that are coming when divine promises of liberation and blessings will dawn. But unlike the pictures of the blind man by the side of the window, Jeremiah’s foresight lies in the future that is attainable; a divinely ordained and realizable future.
Today begins a new year in the Church’s calendar and we could really say “happy new year” to ourselves. We have entered into the 3rd Year (C) of the Church’s calendar which is being ushered with the Advent period. The word Advent means “future coming”. In this wise we are anticipating the coming of Jesus Christ. Significantly, there are three senses we understand this coming:
Life is generally filled with a lot of expectations. When we are born, we are expected to grow; as we grow we are expected to mature, as we mature we are expected to be successful in various areas. Expectations mark and make the world. People are expected to marry, women are expected to conceive, and pregnant women are even called expectant mothers. At a time we are even expected to die if we dare live so long. In Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations, Pip’s life was driven by wonderful expectations which included but not restricted to being a gentleman in London and marrying Estella.
Today we are reflecting on the great expectation. Unlike Pip’s material / temporal expectations, we are looking forward to a spiritual / eternal expectation which in our context refers to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. In connection with the readings, Jeremiah tells us that it will be the fulfillment of God’s promises. The fulfillment of these promises will be at the due season and time and through the right person (Jesus Christ) and the right channel. God is a wonderful planner and His plans are tested ok! In the second reading (1 Thess.3:12-4:2) St. Paul advised that for us to enjoy the promises which Jeremiah outlined, we need to adopt love as a principle and holiness as a way of life. And in the gospel reading (Luke 21:25-28, 34-36) our Lord himself presented us with the drama of how his second coming will be like. After the frightening reactions of the heavenly bodies and other elements, the Son of Man will emerge. The warning is that we should be watchful so that we are not caught unprepared!
One of the worst things one could ever imagine is to be caught off guard in anything at all; especially when one could have managed the situation. The bewildering pictures of the sun, the moon and other phenomena that our Lord presented were not meant to scare us. They are more of reminders to us that even the things we see as built to last will crumble; but not our faith. That is why he went further to encourage us to stay awake (with hope), praying (with faith) having confidence before the Son of Man (with love) so as to survive all that is going to happen! This summarily is a pointer to the fact that the theological virtues of faith, hope and love are the basic elements we need during this season of Advent. Faith enables us to believe (without doubt) in the coming of the Lord. Hope enables us to trust in his promises relying on the grace of God not on our own strength; and love urges us to live good lives by pleasing God and our neighbours! It is on these that the Advent period germinates and takes root!
There is need for us to understand that the Advent season is a holy season. A period of staying awake, praying, and performing acts of charity. This is not the time to plan and execute evil. This is not the time to waste our lives running after things that have little or no values in our lives. Our lives should be reflective of the lives of those who are waiting for something they value more than any other thing. As we light the first candle of the Advent period let our lives be set afire with enduring expectation for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ not in Israel but in our hearts!
I wish you an awesomely blessed Advent season!
Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD.
Long time ago, as a seminarian, I was posted on apostolic work to a certain town in the southeastern part of Nigeria, West Africa. My apostolic work that year was really eventful and I went home wiser. The town in question was (and is still) a big one being the home of rich and successful men and women.
I reported at the parish house quite earlier than the other seminarians largely because I left home earlier considering the distance from my home. The parish priest welcomed me and asked me to hold on for the others to come. After some hours the others arrived as well as some parishioners who had been invited to pick us to their respective out-stations. I happened to be the most senior and the parish priest assigned me to the out-station that is directly under the parish so that I could as well be of assistance to him. After the usual instructions from the priest we were asked to join those who came to pick us.
While the others were going I was still hanging. I observed that two different parties came to pick me. Each came with two cars but I could not go because there was a contention. One party claimed to have arrived earlier than the other and the other party claimed that at the last meeting which the first party did not attend, there was an agreement that the second party should be the host family to the seminarian. The parties argued and the exchange of words took a fierce and personal dimension.
The priest later intervened and told them that none of them could take the seminarian given the situation; he added that I would be staying with him in the parish house. They all felt better about it (no-victor-no-vanquished situation) and left. When they had gone the priest told me that the two men at the head of the argument were contesting for the “Igwe” (Kingship) of the town since the incumbent king died. This piece of information helped me throughout my stay.
Within the time I was there, each party tried to get close to the parish priest and to tell him the bad side of the other party. He just listened. Actually the town was torn apart by these two contenders to the throne. It was so bad that in the church, one could notice that members of each faction sat on one side while the other faction sat on another side. The kingship tussle became more deadly and ruthless the time the council of elders gathered to decide who would be enthroned. The elders were still trying to sort things out on one occasion when violence broke out between the two parties. There were gunshots and general malaise to the extent that some people sustained various degrees of injury as they tried to escape from various directions.
The next morning one of the contenders died in his sleep! Two day after the surviving contender was shot by unknown gunmen outside the town. With the deaths, nobody spoke about ascending the throne for a very long time. Thereafter, the government of the State intervened and set someone on the throne as the Igwe (king).
The history of the world is actually replete with the rising and falling of kings and kingdoms; the rising and falling of empires and emperors. The entire gamut of world history presents us with tales of enthronements and dethronements of individuals and groups with their transient powers. We are conversant with the Pharaohs of Egypt, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon during the exilic experience of Daniel’s time. Down the path of history we know of Alexander the Great whose reign was felt around the known world of his time, we know of Alfred the Great, Darius the Great, Charlemange, Louis xiv and others. Many empires rose and fell: Roman Empire, Spanish Empire, and the Empires of France and Britain.
In modern history we know of Haile Selassie (the 225th and last emperor of Ethiopia), Adolf Hitler (the Nazi machinery of the holocaust), Idi Amin (the ruthless self acclaimed field Marshal and president for life of Uganda). In contemporary history we know of the Saddam Husseins, the and the Mubaracks. The last from this era was Mommah Gaddaffi who organized his crowning as king of kings of Africa. One common denominator is that all these kingdoms and their kings crumbled at some historic points.
Our celebration today is focused of Jesus Christ the universal king. We are today drawn to Jesus Christ the King who reigns for eternity. That our lord Jesus Christ is King is not a figment of imagination or mere wishful thinking; testimonies abound in the scriptures:
Psalm 24:7 . Tells us that he is the king of glory.
Isaiah 9:6-7. Calls him our ruler, the Wonder Counselor, Mighty Father, Prince of Peace whose kingdom will have no end!
Zecharia 9:9. Calls him our King that rides humbly, triumphantly and victoriously on a donkey.
Zecharia 14: 9. Calls him the King of all the earth.
Matthew 2:2 . Calls him the King of the Jews.
Luke 1: 33 : Says that his kingdom will have no end.
Luke 23:38. His executioners confirmed him as the King of the Jews.
John 1: 49. Calls him the King of Israel.
Rev.17:14. Calls him Lord of Lords King of Kings.
The King we are acknowledging and worshipping today is very much unlike the earthly kings. His Kingdom is also very much unlike the Kingdoms of the earth.
Do you believe that:
In our world today, there are many kings and kingdoms springing up everywhere. In our contemporary human society money has constituted itself as a king as many run after it as if their lives came from it. The same is applicable to materialism, immorality and fashion. In the area of modern means of communication the story is more disheartening.
All over the world people give “101” attention to television, internet, mobile phones and indeed the social media to the detriment of the required attention to Jesus Christ the King. Often the only time most people remember that Jesus Christ is the most powerful King is when they go through some deplorable experiences. At such time they “order” Jesus Christ to intervene immediately and confront the situation. When the challenge is over they tend to drop him by the side until yet another time. That is why people merely call him a helper, provider, sustainer, rewarder etc. But he is beyond all these. He is our HELP, PROVISION, REWARD, SALVATION, SUSTENANCE etc.
Actually we cannot put a limit to what Jesus Christ our King can do for us and with us. If you read the encounter between Moses and God in Exodus (3:14ff) you will find out that when Moses asked God “who should I tell that sent me?” God said to him tell them that “I AM” sent you. This is actually an open withdrawal cheque which God left for us. God did not say I am the protector for instance so that all He owes us would be to protect and nothing more. But He said “I Am…….” And left the spaces for you to add whatever you desire from him. It is from this that we understand Jesus expanding into various areas like: “I am the way, I am the truth, I am the resurrection. I am the life, I am the good Shepherd” etc.
As we go out to proclaim Jesus Christ the King of kings and Lord of lords, let us remember that this proclamation must surpass mere verbalization. It must resonate with our lives. The little and useless kingdoms in our world would all pass away; they are incomparable with the eternal Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ which should be our utmost concern and focus!
Happy Christ the King!
“THE END OF TIME”: HOMILY FOR THE 33RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR (B)
REV. FR. BONIFACE NKEM ANUSIEM PhD.
There is one basic rhythm in life; whatever has a beginning will logically have an end. The preacher made it more appealing when he said: “for everything under the earth there is a season” (Ecclesiastes. 3:1). The fact of a beginning runs through the old and new testaments (Gen.1:1; John 1:1); there is also an opening to the end of the world as testified by Daniel in the Old Testament (Daniel 12:1-13) and our Lord Jesus Christ and St. Paul in the New Testament (Matt.24:15-29; 1Thess.5:1-11).
From the time our Lord Jesus Christ gave a hint about the end of the world through the teachings of St. Paul about the second coming of Jesus Christ like a “thief”, the known world has been living in unsettling expectation to the extent that we have more than 200 recorded predictions about the end of the world; but the end is yet to come! These are some of the prominent predictions:
11. Harold Camping: Using the medium of the family radio Oakland California, Camping announced that the rapture would take place on May 21, 2011 with God taking 3% of the world population as those to be saved. Consequently he predicted that by October 21, 2011 the world would end finally. Am sure we are in November 2012. Later on he said that on that May 21, 2011 what happened was spiritual rapture and that God is giving us time (which is not a new message anyway).
We could spend the entire space recounting prophecies of the end of the world, their proponents and the accompanying failures; the list is long. In any case all the predictions overlooked the statement of our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew (24:36): “No one knows, however, when that day and hour will come- neither the angels in heaven nor the Son the Father alone knows”. (See also Mk.13:32).
On the other hand, those who had been gullible with the predictions of the doomsday prophets seem to forget that our Lord Jesus Christ said: “Be on your guard and do not let anyone deceive you. For many will come in my name, saying I am the Christ and will deceive many”. (Matthew 24:4-5). In another place (Matthew 24:23-25) he says:
If anyone says to you Look here is the Messiah! Or there he is do not believe him. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear; and they will perform great miracles and wonders in order to deceive even God’s elect if possible. Listen I have told you this before it happens.
The end is sure but should it be productive of fear or faith? Should we be worried about the end of time or about living good and acceptable lives? St. Paul had to battle with a similar scenario at various points because people were aimlessly starring at the sky waiting for the second coming of the Lord. In his first letter to Timothy (I Tim.6:14-15) he advised that people should focus on obeying the commandments faithfully until the Lord comes again at the right time appointed by God.
There are basically two reasons why people obey rules; one is positive while the other is negative. One is out of love, commitment and appreciation while the other is out of fear of being punished. In some countries in West Africa for instance, some people scramble for their seat belts while driving when they sight Road Safety Workers on the way; this is obedience out of fear of punishment rather than appreciation of the need for safety. We should be moved to be in heaven by our love for God, our appreciation for His goodness and commitment to doing His will than the fear of going to hell and being eternally punished. We should be sustained by heavenly faith than by hellish fear!
As the liturgical and calendar year draws to an end we are reminded that we are in this world for a moment! There is an end in view. Actually when anyone of us dies his or her time comes to an end. Evidently none of us has the gift of forever. In any case we should be more concerned about eternity than the fear of the end of the world which is sure to come but at a divinely appointed time not by human predictions. The question that could be more productive is: “How ready I am if the Lord should come today will I be saved severed?” More so we are called upon to announce the end of sin and disobedience than the end of the world! Be it 21st of December 2012 or later we should be ever ready!
Have a glorious Sunday and a happy week ahead!
TENDERING OR TAMPERING GOD’S PORTION: HOMILY FOR THE 32ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME OF THE YEAR B.
Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD
It was on a Sunday morning in a certain town in Nigeria West Africa. While preparing to attend the Sunday Mass, one young man brought out his wallet and examined what was left after having an exciting weekend groove with some of his friends who came into town. He had the following denominations: 5 naira note (little above a quarter), 50 naira note (less 50 cents), 100 Naira note (less than a dollar) 200 naira note ( about 1.3 dollars), 500 naira note ( about 3.2 dollars) and 1000 Naira note ( about 6.4 dollars). After an interval of calculation on how to use his money that day, he brought out the 5 naira note and 1000 naira note. He planned to give the 5 naira as his offering for the Mass and thereafter use the 1000 naira to buy airtime for his mobile phone’s pay as you go recharge. Before proceeding to the church he had the 5 naira in his left pocket and the 1000 naira in his right pocket.
During the offering time, the choir was in an exceptionally celebrative mood as they rendered traditional liturgical songs that prodded people to dance along as they went to put money in the offering box at the centre of aisle. The young man in question seemed to be in a happier mood as the choir rendered one of the songs he loved so much. In that gusto he approached the offering box and dipping his hand into his right pocket and without checking what he brought out he made his offering. While proceeding to his seat, he paused a while to check his right pocket and instantly he discovered that he had just offered the 1000 naira note and suddenly he stopped dancing and he became moody. He remained that way throughout the rest of the Mass; of course he was unable to receive communion on account of his state of mind. After the Mass he waited like other people to greet the priest and thank him for the wonderful celebration. As he shook hands with the priest he immediately submitted that he made a mistake during the offering time as he “mistakenly” gave 100 naira instead of 5 naira. The priest was shocked but went ahead to ask him what he would like to be done about it. He said that he would like to have the 1000 naira replaced with the 5 naira he had in mind from home. The priest did not argue and asked him to bring the 5 naira and then have the 1000 naira back. The man searched his left pocket for more than 10 minutes and he could not find the 5 naira. The priest told him that he could only give him 1000 naira if he provided the 5 naira. The young man became more confused and left. While going home it came to his mind that he had earlier removed the 5 naira from his left pocket and was actually having it in his hand, but the song so thrilled him that he went ahead to dip his hand into his right pocket and offered both the 5 naira and the 1000 naira. God eventually took all “by default!”
Today, the first reading (1Kings 17:10-16) and the gospel reading (Mark 12:38-44) present us with issues that are so much related with giving to God or for God’s sake. In the first reading we encounter a widow at Zarephath at the heat of the famine being experienced by the people of Israel. As Elijah entered the city (by divine direction) he saw the widow in question gathering sticks by the city gate. Immediately he asked for water to drink. While she was going he called her back and asked for a morsel of bread. The woman was speechless. She could afford water as it is demanded in the Jewish law not to refuse water to someone thirsty especially when it is available, but for bread her story was not palatable. According to her, she had a handful of flour and a little oil which she was about to prepare for herself and her child to eat and afterwards await death. Elijah interrupted her lines of lament by assuring her that God had decreed that neither the flour nor the oil would finish until God sends rain upon the earth. She went ahead and did what Elijah asked her to do and the promise was fulfilled. Her household never lacked any food throughout the period. In the gospel reading we encounter another widow. During the offering time in the Synagogue she went like others to make an offering but our Lord identified her offering as peculiar. She gave two copper coins (about a penny) but according to our Lord it was the greatest of all because from the little she had she gave everything.
We have here very interesting stories bothering on giving to God or giving for God’s sake. Put in another way we are presented with the invitation to tender and not to tamper God’s own portion. It is most touchy that the subjects of the stories belonged to the lowest rung of the society. Widows then belonged to the same cadre as those considered to be without anything like orphans and strangers (Deut. 14:29; Mal.3:5).The two widows had faith in their willingness to give. Furthermore they gave selflessly (and unconditionally) without the thought of what they would gain from their generosity. They were moved to give because of the conviction that the little they had came from God. They were poor in spirit (Matt. 5:3) because they relied solely on God. We can say that they left themselves in God’s hands. At that time women saw their husbands as their lords (1 Pet. 3:6). As lords, husbands took total care of their wives; in fact their existence had a lot to do with their husbands. With this, one could imagine the fate of a widow who had nobody to reckon as a lord. It is based on this that God suffices as the husband of the widows (Isaiah 54:4; Psalm 68:5). They were physically widowed but spiritually married to God whose nature is charity.
Evidently the bible did not give us the names of the two widows so that we can insert our names in those stories. How many of us can be bold enough to replicate the deed of the widow of Zarephath by accepting the “inconvenience” of providing for those working in His vineyard even when there seems to be nothing? How many of us will be as self-effacing as the widow in the gospel who gave ALL she had because God’s portion needed to tendered. Imagine how much you spend on yourself every week and what you give to God within the same space of time. God forbid that I give him the least in my pocket! There are some of us, using the Nigerian context, who fall within the category of those who from their abundance offer God 5 naira every Sunday. The breakdown runs thus
5 Naira = Every Sunday
In four week = 20 naira
In three months = 60 naira
In six month = 120 naira
In one year =240 naira. (This is less than 2 dollars).
There are some people who feel that 20 naira is ideal. Let us look at this very well:
20 naira = Every Sunday
In four weeks = 80 naira
In three months = 240 naira
In six month = 480 naira
In one year = 960 naira. (This is less than 7 dollars).
There are still others who feel that 50 naira is so great. Let us look at this also.
50 naira = Every Sunday
In four weeks = 200 naira
In three months = 600 naira
In six months = 1,200 naira
In one year = 2,400 naira (This is less than 20 dollars).
I wish to stop so far and have each and every one of us work out his or her offering status. It is good to remark here that there is nothing we can give to God that can be said to be very sufficient. What if we buy the air we breathe? What if we are required to recharge the air we breathe? But he had given it to us free! At some instances God had to frown at people’s lack of appreciation to him (Mal 3:8ff). We have to reconsider our offering quotient today. This may not be only in terms of monetary offering. There are indeed many things we can offer ranging from our time to our talents as well as our souls.
Have a blissful Sunday and a blessed week ahead!