32nd Sunday In Ordinary Time – Year B
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: November 11, 2018
Do we see with the eyes of God or do we create a God who sees with our eyes? We who are religious, of all religions, often impose our way of thinking on God. So, we present an image of God that is distorted, one that is unhealthy, and leads some people to reject God.
In an article I just read, Fr. Ron Rolheiser said the following:
“Recently a student I’d taught decades ago made this comment to me: ‘It’s been more than twenty years since I took your class and I’ve forgotten most everything you taught. What I do remember from your class is that we’re supposed to always try not to make God look stupid.’ Anything we do in the name of God should reflect God. It’s not easy to do God adequately, let alone well. But we must try, … to reflect a healthy theology of God, that is, reflect the God whom Jesus incarnated and revealed. What did Jesus reveal about God?”
Today’s Gospel shows Jesus at the Temple with his disciples and watching what is happening there. He speaks about the Scribes, who would have been seen as the very religious people in his time. They go around in long robes, greeted with respect in the marketplaces, best seats in the synagogues, say long prayers for sake of appearance. Meanwhile they cheat and take advantage of the weakest in society such as the widows.
Then he watches people giving donations in the Temple, sees a number of rich people giving large amounts, then this poor widow who gives what amounts to almost nothing. But, he sees her giving as being most of all. Jesus is condemning the social structures that create this incredible inequality and the religious hypocrisy that allowed it to continue, seen in this poor widow who was ignored as unimportant.
Widows at that time in history and in that culture were some of the weakest in society, they had no power, no political influence, were voiceless, had no protection, vulnerable. The structures of society treated them though they did not matter, in fact they simply would have been ignored as unimportant.
Jesus reveals God as one who is not just here for the rich or the pure or the well-respected or the religious. God sees below the surface, sees deeper. God notices those we do not see, those who are seen as least important, poor, unknown.
Jesus is upset by a religion that is self serving, whose purpose is to make them look good in front of others. How wrong when we who are supposedly religious look down on the poor, on those in prison, on refugees.
There is a distorted Christianity, sometimes called the Prosperity Gospel. It says that if I pray, if I embrace a Christian life, then I will be successful and be prosperous. But, this is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The prosperous successful Scribes were the ones that Jesus judged most harshly, while the poor vulnerable widow was seen in a positive light.
This Gospel is a challenging one for us priests. For we are in a sense religious professionals, perhaps like the Scribes and we are always faced with the danger of hypocrisy, clericalism, wanting to be put on a pedestal. Yet, priesthood only makes sense when we are here to serve, not for recognition or praise. The fact is that most of you are holier than me. And the holiest in this parish is probably one that none of us notice.
The challenge for our Church, for each of us Catholics, is to make sure we do not make God look bad. By our words, by our actions, by the way we speak of God, do not make God look foolish.
We need to see with the eyes of God, with a special concern for the poor, the outsiders, those who are forgotten and neglected by our society.
The structures of our society continue to create great inequality, rich and poor, with many left behind. Today, who are like the widows in the time of Jesus? Perhaps it would be the homeless. For the homeless have no voice, no power, they are often completely ignored and seen as unimportant. Even in a rich country like Canada, there are so many homeless.
So each of us here in this church today need to ask ourselves, “do I see with the eyes of God or do I create a God to see with my eyes? What image of God do I present to others? Is it the image revealed in Jesus of the Gospels or an image that makes God seem foolish?