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HOW TO GIVE ALMS

Father Francis's picture
Ninth Week of Ordinary Time

Tobit 12:1,5-15,20 & Mk.12:38-44

It is clear from today's Gospel reading that Jesus was not impressed by the scribes. He could see right through their pretence to their real motives. All that they did was intended to look right in the eyes of the people who saw them. They even dressed so that they would be noticed. All this brought on them condemnation from Jesus because he could read their hearts. Love for God played no part in their lives; their wealth and manner of living did not help people in need.

We can easily fall into the same trap. The way we dress, the homes we live in, the cars we drive or the letters after our name can add to our self-worth if we are not careful.

So the scribes did not live for God but themselves. When they taught it was not to lead others to God, but to impress people. When they gave money their intention was not to help others, but to make people think highly of them. When they prayed it was not to get closer to God, but to make people say, 'Aren’t they holy?' In the eyes of the people they were good men, but in the eyes of God they were evil.

Against this backdrop in the Temple Jesus witnessed one bright act of virtue. No one noticed it but Him. He saw a widow who went about her alms-giving unobtrusively. What she did was not to win the praise of anyone but of God alone. What she gave in terms of wealth was almost worthless, but it was her all and in the eyes of Jesus it was priceless. How often do we give like that – our entire self to God?

The message of this homily is summed up beautifully in the first reading by the archangel Raphael. Tobit had been truly blessed - his eyesight restored and his wealth increased and Raphael says, “Bless God, utter His praise … Better to practice almsgiving than to hoard up gold. Almsgiving saves from death and purges every kind of sin. Those who give alms have their fill of days; those who commit sin and do evil, bring harm on themselves.” Those words are a worthy commentary on the alms-giving of the scribes and the poor widow. How is our own alms-giving to be judged?

Lord Jesus, may our acts of generosity never be through self-love which defeats the whole person of giving, but may we have a caring eye that helps in a hidden way those in need. Then we can be certain that you will reward us.

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