The Church of Saint Agnes

1680 Dixie Highway, Fort Wright, KY 41011

The Church of Saint Agnes
1680 Dixie Highway, Fort Wright, KY 41011

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34th Week in Ordinary Time

Date: 
Mon, 11/27/2017
Author: 
Rev. Msgr. Donald Enzweiler

Covetousness is one of the seven capital sins.  Two of the Ten Commandments deal with coveting.
The 9th Commandment:  thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife.
And the 10th Commandment:  thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s goods.
 
To covet is to wish for earnestly. It is to feel an inordinate, unrestricted desire for what belongs to another.
For example, Cain had a great desire to receive the favor his brother Abel was receiving from God.
To covet it to begrudge another for what he/she has and we don’t. 
It is to want something,
to the point of being willing to do something wrong, something immoral to acquire it.
 
The virtue that opposes covetousness, the virtue that is the remedy for covetousness, is generosity.
Covetous desires must be countered by generous desires.
 
The poor widow in today’s Gospel is generous.
Even though she gave little as compared with others,
Jesus notes that her generosity is exemplary.
Jesus is saying to those who will listen:  be as generous as this poor widow.
She was generous in spite of her poverty.
 
Hebrew law promoted generosity.
A farmer was not to reap his field to the extreme.
Some of the grain, some of the olives and grapes
were to be left in the field or on the vine
for the poor, the resident alien, the widow and the orphan.
Generosity was encouraged when someone requested a loan.
The lender was to be willing to risk the loss of his loan for the good of the one borrowing.
Forgiving one’s debtors was an act of generosity.
 
When it comes to generosity (and for all virtues for that matter)
there is what I call a “middle ground” attitude.
We believe we’re in the right place when we hold the middle ground.
As long as we avoid the harmful extremes, life is what it should be.
With regards to generosity the extremes to avoid are being overly stingy on one end
and being prideful and overly concerned with public recognition of our generosity, on the other.
Such an attitude necessarily sets comfortable limits on our generosity.
 
In praising the poor widow, Jesus isn’t associating generosity with amount.
He is associating it with attitude.
Jesus recognizes that the widow gave all she had to live on.  Her trust in divine providence is great.
And she gave with no fanfare.  She didn’t want to be seen or recognized as doing something heroic. 
God sees, God knows, and that’s all that matters to her.
 
Today there seems to be a preoccupation with heroes.  Where have all the heroes gone?
At the priests’ retreat in October we were touted as heroes because we were priests.
Well, I didn’t become a priest to be a hero.
I don’t think it’s a good idea to promote vocations by saying to young men “be a hero…become a priest”.
I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something not appropriate about such an approach.
Jesus never called his disciples or his apostles “heroes”.
Heroes receive public acclaim, public recognition, the praise of the people…
this to me seems contrary to everything Jesus is about. 
Be generous and be satisfied that God sees and knows.
To be concerned about public recognition lends itself to covetousness and pride.
 
Today’s prayer:  “O Lord, Your generosity to us knows no bounds.  Give us generous hearts.  Help us to be content knowing that You see what we do and why we do it.  Help us to believe that such recognition is all the praise we need.  Amen!”