32nd Sunday of Year B

FR TONY'S HOMILYMORE ANECDOTESRCIA LESSONSFAITH FORMATION LESSONS
CBS Sunday Morning (2:39) – By day, Austin Perine is a mild-mannered four-year-old from Birmingham, Alabama. But once a week, he turns into this alter ego: a superhero set on feeding as many homeless people as possible. Steve Hartman reports.
8-MINUTE HOMILY

Surrender Your Life to God by Serving Others Lovingly and Sacrificially

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Scripture readings for today remind us that we are created to love God by loving others and to love others as an expression of our love for God. Our religious practices like prayers, Bible reading, Sacraments, acts of penance, and self-control are meant to help us to acknowledge and appreciate the presence of God in our neighbors and to express our love for God by serving our neighbors with love, sharing our blessings with them.

Homily Starter Anecdote

The conventional wisdom is that every homily should begin with a story to capture the congregation’s attention and to introduce the theme. 
OPTION A: When Giving Becomes a Sacrifice

When Giving Becomes a Sacrifice

St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) said, “If you give what you don’t need, it isn’t giving.” She used to tell a story of how one day she was walking down the street when a beggar came up to her and said, “Mother Teresa everybody is giving to you, I also want to give to you. Today for the whole day I got only fifteen rupees (thirty cents). I want to give it to you.” Mother Teresa thought for a moment: “If I take the thirty cents, he will have nothing to eat tonight, and if I don’t take it I will hurt his feelings. So I put out my hands and took the money. I have never seen such joy on anybody’s face as I saw on the face of that beggar at the thought that he too could give to Mother Teresa.” She said that gift meant more to her than winning the Nobel Prize. Mother Teresa went on: “It was a big sacrifice for that poor man, who had sat in the sun the whole day long and received only thirty cents.

Thirty cents is such a small amount and I can get nothing with it, but as he gave it up and I took it, it became like thousands because it was given with so much love. God looks not at the greatness of the work, but at the love with which it is performed.” (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies).

OPTION B: The Poorest State in the U.S. is the Most Charitable

The Poorest State in the U.S. is the Most Charitable

An interesting study appeared on p. 17 in the January 13, 2003, issue of Time magazine. It was a study ranking each of the 50 states’ personal income levels as compared to their rate of charitable giving. The results were surprising. Massachusetts, with the fourth highest personal income in the country ranked last in charitable contributions. The citizens of New Hampshire ranked 6th overall in average personal income, but ranked 45th in the percentage of their income given to charitable causes. On the other end of the spectrum, the citizens of Mississippi ranked 49th in average personal income, the second poorest state in the nation. Yet, Mississippians ranked 6th in the nation in their percentage of charitable giving. It also ranked first in actual dollars contributed. In Mississippi, forty-ninth in income, Mississippians gave, on average, about forty percent more to charity than did their Yankee cousins!

The more you have, the less you give. What that reflects is your values. Converted to percentage of income contributed to charity, the disparity was even greater. Another fact emerged: Wealthy people tend to give more to secular charities than to religious institutions. Poorer families give mostly to religious institutions and their social ministries. What’s going on? Are lower income families more generous or more religious? Do rich people see more direct benefit to their well-being from museums, colleges, or concerts than from worship, outreach, and fellowship at their churches?

OPTION C: A Four-year-old Superhero

A Four-year-old Superhero

The story of Austine Perine from Birmingham Alabama would give you chills. The four-year-old African American boy was watching Animal Planet with his father when a mother Panda abandons her cub and walks away. Austin dad remarked that the cub would become homeless. Austin was moved with pity for the cub when he learned from the dad that being homeless meant not having a home to stay and not receiving the care of a dad and mom.

On a later date, Austin’s dad, TJ Perine took him to a homeless shelter in the city at his request to see what it means to be homeless. When Austin saw people looking hungry and tired, he asked his dad if they could give them his Burger King chicken sandwich. His father had not prepared for that, but he couldn’t but responded to Austin’s recommendation to feed the homeless.

After that, Austin requested that the parents convert the money for his toys to buying chicken sandwiches for the homeless. Every week, the superhero who is also known as “President Austin,” would dress up in a blue top and pants with a red cape and visit the homeless to hand them food and would always say to them “remember to show love.” Soon he became phenomenal in the city and later in the country. Soon the Austins started getting support from people and organizations including $1,000 monthly allowance from Burger King to feed the homeless every week.

Meet Austin Perine: Birmingham’s 4 year old superhero who feeds the homeless

Click on chevron banners for additional insights into this week’s scripture in order to relate it to the lives of your parishioners.

First Reading Remarks

The first reading and the Gospel today present poor widows who sacrificially gave their whole lives and means of livelihood to God, foreshadowing the supreme sacrifice Jesus would offer by giving His life for others. In the first reading, taken from the First Book of Kings, a poor widow who has barely enough food for herself and her son welcomes the prophet Elijah as a man of God, offers all her food to him and receives her reward from God in the form of a continuing daily supply of food.

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Additional insights on the First Reading from Fr. Tony

This particular passage is one in a collection of stories of miracles wrought by the prophet Elijah who would challenge King Ahab and his cruel pagan Queen Jezebel over the issue of worship of the false god, Baal.

Complementing the story of the Widow’s Mite told in today’s Gospel, the first reading explains how another poor, pagan widow, a Syro-Phoenician living in Zarephath in the territory of Sidon, in the middle of a famine and with little left for herself, shares the last of her meager resources with the prophet Elijah. As a reward for her sacrificial generosity, she receives God’s blessing for the remaining months of the famine in the form of sufficient continuing daily provisions which ensure their survival.

Elijah, instructed by the Lord God and following the Near Eastern custom, has asked for hospitality in the form of food and accommodation. The widow is not unwilling but tells the prophet that she has enough for only one meal for her son and herself. Nevertheless, Elijah asks her to demonstrate her trust in his God’s provision by first giving food to himself, as the man of God. She does as he asks, and we know what happened. Her jar of meal and the jug of oil did not empty until the drought had ended.

This story of the widow’s provisions, like the following story of Elijah’s raising of her son to life again after the boy had died, also emphasizes the power of God’s word and His love for those who love Him, working through the prophet’s prayers, words, and sctions.


Second Reading Summary

Today’s Resposorial Psalm (Ps 146) reminds us that everything that exists belongs to the Lord and that He sustains us all, so that when we return thanks to Him, as the widows did, we please Him. That prepares us for the second reading which tells us how Jesus, as the High Priest of the New Testament, surrendered His life to God His Father totally and unconditionally as a sacrificial offering for our sins – a sacrifice far beyond the sacrifices made by the poor widows.

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Additional insights on the Second Reading from Fr. Tony

The letter to the Hebrews was written for Jewish converts to Christ, in part to help them cope with the loss of the comforts they had enjoyed from the institutions of Judaism. The Temple authorities had refused to permit early Jewish Christians to participate either in the synagogue or the Temple services. St. Paul teaches these Judeo-Christians that Jesus, alive in the community, has become the Holy of Holies and the High Priest, around which pair all Temple worship revolved.

Since Jesus has replaced both the Temple and human mediators, the Christians need not go to the Temple for worship. The true temple is no more the Temple of Jerusalem or any other place of worship.Now, the humanity of Christ is the Sanctuary in which God bodily dwells. The only begotten Son of God became this Sanctuary at His Incarnation in the womb of the Virgin Mary, remaining true God and becoming true Man. In today’s passage, the institutions in question are sanctuary, sacrifice, and judgment.

Under the Old Covenant, a priest conducted an annual ritual sacrifice in the sanctuary of the Temple, slaughtering a lamb. Paul argues that Jesus Himself has replaced the whole class of ancient priests, and that the earthly sanctuary has been made obsolete by the Original Sanctuary that is Heaven, where Jesus the High Priest intercedes for us directly before God. Similarly, the repetitive annual sacrifices have been replaced by Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice at the end of the ages. The old sacrifices were meant to forestall an unfavorable judgment by God. The new expectation is brighter and more positive: salvation for those who eagerly await Him.


Gospel Summary

In the Gospel, Jesus contrasts the external signs of honor sought by the scribes with the humble, sacrificial offering of a poor widow and declares that she has found true honor in God’s eyes. The poor widows in both the first reading and the Gospel give away all that they possess for the glory of God. The sacrificial self-giving of the widows in the first reading and the Gospel reflects God’s love in giving His only Son for us, and Christ’s love in sacrificing himself on the cross.

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Additional insights on the Gospel from Fr. Tony

The context: Beginning from chapter 11 of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus confronts the Temple authorities and challenges the then-ongoing abuses in the “organized religion.” One by one Jesus engages in debate with the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the scribes, and the Herodians. Jesus’ overarching condemnation of the religious-political-economic establishment is summed up when the accusation that the leaders have transformed the Temple into a den of robbers (Mk 11:17). Today’s Gospel text demonstrates why all those who held traditional positions of religious power found Jesus’ presence and preaching so disturbing. Jesus’ denunciation of the scribes forms the conclusion of the series of Jerusalem conflict stories. These stories show the widening gulf between Jesus and the Temple authorities that will result in the Sanhedrin’s decision to get rid of Jesus.


The attack on pride and hypocrisy: The scribes of Jesus’ day were experts in the Law of Moses, scholars to whom people turned for a proper understanding of God’s will as revealed in Scripture. But in today’s Gospel, Jesus moves from the scribes’ erroneous theology to their bankrupt ethics, reflected in their craving for pre-eminence both in religious gatherings (in the synagogue), and in social settings (market places and banquets). Jesus publicly criticizes their behavior as a ceaseless grasping for honor, first attacking the popular style of scribal dress, a fairly easy target. A first-century scribe wore a long linen robe with a long white mantle decorated with beautiful long fringes. White robes identified the wearer as someone of importance and prestige. Jesus’ observation that the scribes liked “to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces” is a reference to the tradition which dictated that common people “in the marketplace” should respectfully rise to their feet when a scribe walked past. The Talmud notes that when two people meet in the marketplace, the one inferior in knowledge of the Law should greet the other first. But the scribes began to feel that such respect was a right owed to them for their learning in the Law, and this made them arrogant and proud. Likewise, at banquets and dinner parties, when rich men invited scribes and perhaps some of their pupils as guests, they would give these men prominent seats. Similarly, the scribe’s synagogue seat of honor placed him up front with the Torah, facing the congregation. Scribes were seated on a platform facing the people, resting their backs against the same wall that held the box which contained the Torah scrolls. The problem Jesus pinpoints is that the scribes had confused the respect intended for the position they held with respect given them for their own abilities and accomplishments. Jesus also characterizes the scribes’ offering of long prayers to God, whether in the synagogue or Temple or some other highly public place, not as an attempt to seek God’s will or praise God’s Name, but as a means of asserting, and being honored for, superior piety.


Devouring widows’ houses: In verse 40, Jesus denounces the shameless profiteering of the scribes at the expense of widows. The Jewish scribes of the first century were not paid for being scribes because they were not considered as belonging to a professional, self-supporting group. Thus, despite the honor their position brought them, many scribes were downright poor, and it was deemed an act of obedience and piety to extend the hospitality of one’s goods and services, of one’s home and resources, to scribes for their support. Devouring widows’ houses is Jesus’ condemnatory description of the source for the luxurious lives led by some scribes who impoverished gullible and pious widows who volunteered to support them. The reference to “widows’ houses” could also refer to the scribes’ tendency to abuse their powers as trustees for the estates of wealthy widows. Further, these authorities were charged with distributing the Temple collections to widows and the needy. In actuality, however, some spent the funds on conspicuous consumption: long robes, banquets, and Temple decorations. This is how they devoured the estates of widows. Power and position can lead even religious leaders to material greed and corruption.


Widow’s mite: By praising the poor widow, Jesus is pointing out the difference between giving what we have left over and giving all that we have. According to the Mishnah (Shekalim VI. 6), there were, standing up against the wall of the Court of Women, 13 trumpet-shaped receptacles that functioned to gather the gifts of the faithful for the Temple treasury. As Jesus and his disciples sat and watched the comings and goings of those offering their gifts of support, they observed many wealthy worshipers placing significant sums into the temple treasury. But it was only observing the tiny offering of two leptons (equivalent to a couple of pennies), made by a poor widow, that moved Jesus to get the attention of the Apostles and comment on the proceedings. It was not the woman’s poverty that made her gift significant for Jesus. For Jesus, it was the fact that this widow, alone among all the contributors lined up to give their offerings, gave her all. The very rich put in much, and the moderately well-off put in a decent amount. But all those who had gone before this widow had limited their giving by holding back a major portion of their money for their own use. This widow stood alone as the one who had turned over, as an offering to God for His use, everything she had — two leptons. Those two, almost worthless coins represented her last shred of security, her fragile earthly thread of hope for the future. With her deep desire to be an obedient servant of God, the widow gave all she had as an offering — even her future — for the sake of God.  In other words, she gave herself totally into God’s hands, with the sure conviction that He would give her the support she needed.


Compliment or lamentation? Oddly, some modern Bible commentators argue that Jesus’ statement that this poor widow put in all she had, was not intended primarily as praise of the woman but was meant both as a prophetic denunciation of the members of the Temple establishment who took advantage of such little people and as the expression of his personal moral indignation at the situation.  How, they ask, could Mark’s Jesus praise someone for sacrificing everything to a place and system which, even in the first century, Christians believed Jesus had replaced?  According to John Pilch (The Cultural World of Jesus), speaking of the widow who put her two mites in the Temple collection box, “Jesus laments this woman’s behavior because she has been taught ‘sacrificial giving’ by her religious leaders. Jesus’ constant Gospel teaching had been grounded in a belief that religion was never to use people’s benevolence to enrich itself.  Christians were to direct their generosity to the needs of others, not to enrich their parishes beyond a certain limit.  Yet Mark clearly focuses on the widow’s deed.  In contrast to the external signs of honor sought by the scribes, she sought only to please God, and she, not they, possessed true honor in God’s eyes. The simple piety of this woman of no social standing is contrasted with the arrogance and social ambitions of some so-called religious leaders.  This poor woman, in a daring act of trust in God’s providence, put into the treasury everything she had. Her action symbolized what Jesus would do by offering his very life to God his Father as an act of perfect   obedience.”

Life messages

We need to appreciate the widows of our parish

Even in seemingly prosperous societies, widows (and widowers), in addition to their deep grief, often suffer from economic loss, from the burden of rearing a family alone, and from a strange isolation from friends, which often sets in soon after protestations of support at their spouses’ funerals. Let us learn to appreciate the widows and widowers of our parish community. Their loneliness draws them closer to God and to stewardship in the parish. They are often active participants in all the liturgical celebrations, offering prayers for their families and for their parish family. Frequently, they are active in the parish organizations, as well as in visiting and serving the sick and the shut-ins. Hence, let us appreciate them, support them, encourage them and pray for them.


We need to accept Christ’s criteria of judging people

We often judge people by what they possess. We give weight to their position in society, to their educational qualifications, or to their celebrity status. But Jesus measures us in a totally different way – on the basis of our inner motives and the intentions hidden behind our actions. He evaluates us on the basis of the sacrifices we make for others and on the degree of our surrender to His holy will. The offering God wants from us is not our material possessions, but our whole hearts and lives. What is hardest to give is ourselves in love and concern, because that gift costs us more than reaching for our purses. Let us, like the poor widow, find the courage to share the wealth and talents we hold. Let us stop dribbling out our stores of love, selflessness, sacrifice, and compassion and dare to pour out our whole heart, our whole being, our “whole life” into the Hands and Heart of God and so into the hidden, love-starved coffers of this world.

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We need to pour out our “whole life.”

Can we, like the poor widow, find the courage to share the wealth and talents we hold? Can we stop dribbling out our stores of love and selflessness and sacrifice and compassion and dare to pour out our whole heart, our whole being, our “whole life” into the love-starved coffers of this world?

End of homily

Jokes of the Week

At the end of Mass, some priests like to offer a joke to their parishioners. Please be sensitive though to particular circumstances or concerns. Some Jokes may not be suitable for particular times, placeS, OR CONGREGATIONS. 

CHOOSE ONE

#1: You know the old joke about the chicken and the pig that saw the church sign saying “Help feed the hungry.”  The chicken said “That’s a good idea!  Let’s help by putting in our ‘widow’s mite.’  Let’s give ham and eggs.”  The pig said, “That’s easy for you to say, but for me it’s a total commitment!”

#2: A six-year-old boy, home from his first day at Church, was asked what he thought of the Holy Mass. “It was OK,” he replied, “but I think it was unfair that the pastor at the altar did all the work, and then a bunch of other people came around and took away all the money.” Amen to that small lad’s insight!

# 3: A colleague once told how “a certain woman phoned her personal banker to arrange for the disposal of a $1,000 bond. The voice on the phone asked for clarification, “Is the bond for conversion or redemption?” The confused woman paused and then inquired, “Am I talking to the bank or the church?”

Fr. Tony started his homily ministry (Scriptural Homilies) in 2003 while he was the chaplain at Sacred Heart residence, applying his scientific methodology to the homily ministry. By word of mouth, it spread to hundreds of priests and Deacons, finally reaching Vatican Radio website (http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html). Fr. Tony’s homilies reach nearly 3000 priests and Deacons by direct email every week. Since Fr. Tony is retiring from parish duties, he has started a personal website: https://frtonyshomilies.com/ where he has started putting his Sunday and weekday homilies, RCIA lessons, Faith Formation articles and other useful items for pastors and pastoral assistants. Fr. Tony warmly invites priests and deacons and the public to visit his website and use it for their preaching and teaching ministries. He welcomes your corrections, modifications and suggestions to improve the homilies and articles given in this website.

Thanks to an organization called Angel Flights east, the planes, fuel, and pilots don’t cost the family a dime. A private pilot picked a young girl and her mother up for the trip of a lifetime; CBS Pittsburgh’s (KDKA) Rick Dayton reports.

Mite of Angel Flight volunteers

In Santa Monica, California, volunteer pilots can fly with Angel Flight, an organization that helps the disadvantaged get to places where they can get the appropriate medical diagnosis and treatment. In 1995-1996, over 9,000 volunteers assisted the Red Cross in local relief efforts around the country. In Toronto, if you are a youth 16-24, you qualify to be placed with another youth aged 6-15 suffering from emotional, behavioral and social problems in a program called Youth Assisting Youth. The program has a phenomenal success rate of 98 percent in keeping kids in school and out of the criminal justice system.  

Moved by the plight of those suffering from cancer, he began his crusade to feed, shelter and even ensure access to services, medication and other needs of those struggling to make ends meet. Today, he feeds over 700 people healthy meals each day, his trust runs over 60 humanitarian projects across three cities and continues to grow each day.

Harakhchand Sawla’s mite

A young man in his thirties used to stand on the footpath opposite the famous Tata Cancer Hospital at Mumbai and stare at the crowd in front, fear plainly written upon the faces of the patients standing at death’s door; their relatives with equally grim faces running around.  These sights disturbed him greatly.  Most of the patients were poor people from distant towns. They had no idea whom to meet, or what to do. They had no money for medicines, not even food.  The young man, heavily depressed, would return home.

‘Something should be done for these people’, he would think. He was haunted by the thought day and night.

At last he found a way.  He rented out his own hotel that was doing good business and raised some money. From these funds he started a charitable activity right opposite Tata Cancer Hospital, on the pavement next to Kondaji Building.  He himself had no idea that the activity would continue to flourish even after the passage of 27 years.  The activity consisted of providing free meals for cancer patients and their relatives.

Many people in the vicinity approved of this activity.  Beginning with fifty, the number of beneficiaries soon rose to hundred, two hundred, three hundred. As the numbers of patients increased, so did the number of helping hands.  As years rolled by, the activity continued, undeterred by the change of seasons, come winter, summer or even the dreaded monsoon of Mumbai. The number of beneficiaries soon reached 700. Mr Harakhchand Sawla, for that was the name of the pioneer, did not stop here. He started supplying free medicines for the needy. In fact, he started a medicine bank, enlisting voluntary services of three doctors and three pharmacists. A toy bank was opened for kids suffering from cancer.

The ‘Jeevan Jyot’ trust founded by Mr Sawla now runs more than 60 humanitarian projects. Sawla, now 57 years old, works with the same vigour. A thousand salutes to his boundless energy and his monumental contribution!

There are people in this country who look upon Sachin Tendulkar as ‘God’- for playing 200 test matches in 20 years, a few hundred one-day matches, and scoring 100 centuries and 30,000 runs.  But hardly anyone knows Harakhchand Sawla, let alone calls him ‘God’ for feeding free lunches to 10 to 12 lac cancer patients and their relatives. We owe this discrepancy to our mass media!  God resides in our vicinity. But we, like mad men run after ‘god-men’, styled variously as Bapu, Maharaj or Baba. All Babas, Maharajs and Bapus become multi-millionaires, but our difficulties, agonies and disasters persist unabated till death.  For the last 27 years, millions of cancer patients and their relatives have found ‘God’, in the form of Harakhchand Sawla.

The Operation Smile mite

Consider William Magee, 52, and Kathleen Magee, 51, founders of Operation Smile.  One is a plastic surgeon and the other a social service worker.  Op Smile began in 1982.  Since then, it has performed surgery on 18,000 kids in 15 countries to correct — without charge — such disfigurements as cleft palates and burn scars, while training local doctors in the procedures.  Says William: “The world is changed by emotion.”

On June 20, 1996, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation awarded the group a $1 million prize to continue the work.  William and Kathleen Magee’s mite has might, and it’s the might of love.

“All that I have today is what I gave away” 

On September 21, 1937 George Pepperdine College opened it doors in south Los Angeles, welcoming 167 students and 22 faculty to a brand new school.

In 1930, George Pepperdine, who was the owner of Western Auto, sold all of his Western Auto stock and went to Los Angeles. He endowed a college for three million dollars it was named Pepperdine College. Everyone thought that college was secure forever. A $3 million endowment in 1930! But as the years passed, it became hemmed in there in Watts in the heart of L.A. I think there was only 15 acres of campus. Dr. Binowski, a young president came to Pepperdine with a great dream. He raised 100 million dollars and moved to that college to a hundred acres of the most-beautiful property in Southern California – Malibu, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The college has become a great university, with the name Pepperdine University. It has a huge endowment, a growing student body and an expanding national reputation. George Pepperdine, in 1930, would have never dreamed of the legacy he would leave the world. In 1950, George Pepperdine made some unfortunate investments, and lost everything.

In 1962, he was virtually broke, except for Pepperdine College, now Pepperdine a university. Pepperdine wrote a book entitled, Faith is My Future. The opening sentence of that book is, “All that I have today is what I gave away.”   

Evie Rosen’s mite

Evie Rosen, 69, of Wausau, Wisconsin, is no doubt busy right now, knitting afghans. The reason: Winter is almost upon us, and someone is going to need a blanket. Evie is a retired needlework shop owner. Disheartened by news stories about the homeless, Rosen wanted to do something to help. “Almost every home has little balls of yarn. I thought if we could all knit 7-inch by 9-inch rectangles, we could stitch them together and make a lot of afghans.”

She started Operation Warm Up America in 1992, getting the word out to churches, retirement homes and craft shops. Last year, with help from other organizations, the group distributed 16,000 afghans! Evie Rosen’s mite has might, and it’s the might of love!

Fannie Epps’ mite has might of love

Mrs. Epps likes the time she spends with children. So she enjoys her time as a volunteer at the Norge Elementary School in Williamsburg, Virginia. There, she works with students who have mental and physical disabilities.

Her day begins long before she goes on duty at 7 a.m. She has to catch a bus to get to the school. When she gets there, she greets Drew who has difficulty walking. Another one of her favorites has Down syndrome. He sits beside her, smiling. She turns on the tape recorder and plays “Jingle Bell Rock,” while her students sing and clap enthusiastically. It takes a lot of energy to work all morning, five days a week, with these children.

Oh, did I mention that Mrs. Epps was 99 years old when she retired? Wasted time, twisted values? “I don’t want to act dead while I’m still alive,” she said.

Fannie Epps’ mite has might, and it’s the might of love!  She died in 1997 just a few weeks short of her 102nd birthday.

The poorest state in the U.S. is the most charitable

An interesting study appeared on p. 17 in the January 13, 2003, issue of Time magazine. It was a study ranking each of the 50 states’ personal income levels as compared to their rate of charitable giving. The results were surprising. Massachusetts, with the fourth highest personal income in the country ranked last in charitable contributions. The citizens of New Hampshire ranked 6th overall in average personal income, but ranked 45th in the percentage of their income given to charitable causes.

On the other end of the spectrum, the citizens of Mississippi ranked 49th in average personal income, the second poorest state in the nation. Yet, Mississippians ranked 6th in the nation in their percentage of charitable giving. It also ranked first in actual dollars contributed. In Mississippi, forty-ninth in income, Mississippians gave, on average, about forty percent more to charity than did their Yankee cousins!

The more you have, the less you give. What that reflects is your values. Converted to percentage of income contributed to charity, the disparity was even greater. Another fact emerged: Wealthy people tend to give more to secular charities than to religious institutions. Poorer families give mostly to religious institutions and their social ministries. What’s going on? Are lower income families more generous or more religious? Do rich people see more direct benefit to their well-being from museums, colleges, or concerts than from worship, outreach, and fellowship at their churches?

When giving becomes a sacrifice

St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) said, “If you give what you don’t need, it isn’t giving.” She used to tell a story of how one day she was walking down the street when a beggar came up to her and said, “Mother Teresa everybody is giving to you, I also want to give to you. Today for the whole day I got only fifteen rupees (thirty cents). I want to give it to you.”

Mother Teresa thought for a moment: “If I take the thirty cents, he will have nothing to eat tonight, and if I don’t take it I will hurt his feelings. So I put out my hands and took the money. I have never seen such joy on anybody’s face as I saw on the face of that beggar at the thought that he too could give to Mother Teresa.”

She said that gift meant more to her than winning the Nobel Prize. Mother Teresa went on: “It was a big sacrifice for that poor man, who had sat in the sun the whole day long and received only thirty cents.

Thirty cents is such a small amount and I can get nothing with it, but as he gave it up and I took it, it became like thousands because it was given with so much love. God looks not at the greatness of the work, but at the love with which it is performed.” (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies).

The Paradox of Our Time in History 

The paradox of our time in history is that we spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy it less.  We have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences, but less time; more medicine, but less wellness.  We read too little, watch TV too much and pray too  seldom.  We have multiplied our possessions but reduced our values.  These are the times of tall men, and short character; deep profits, and shallow relationships.  These are the days of two incomes, but more divorce; of fancier houses, but more broken homes. We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life; we’ve added years to life, not life to years; we’re cleaning up the air but polluting the soul. 

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