Do you see what I see?

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[32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B, Nov 8, 2015 / 1 Kgs 17:10-16 / Ps 146:6c-7, 8-9a, 9b-10 / Heb 9:24-28 Mark 12:38-44]

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MANY people who have problems with their eyes do not really notice until they have a check up. I remember sitting in the lecture halls of my university in Rome one day and realizing that I could not see the notes on the lecturer’s whiteboard very well. In my eye test the optician told me that I was short sighted in my left eye. It was easily corrected with glasses.

In today’s Gospel (Mark 12, 38-44) Jesus gives his disciples an eye test. They are in the temple watching people put money in the treasury box. Many rich people put in large sums. Then a poor widow came and put in two copper coins worth a few cents (the copper coin was the smallest in circulation at that time). Undoubtedly the disciples noticed the big donations being put in and may have been impressed by that. But many times what we see or what we give value to is not what God sees or values. Man looks at appearances whereas God looks at the heart. Jesus called his disciples to himself and said, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

It is as if Jesus was singing to his disciples the line from a well known Christmas carol here in the Philippines: “Do you see what I see?” Often as humans we give value to things which perhaps in God’s sight have no value at all and may even be against his will. To really see as God sees requires a contemplative gaze. Once I went to bless a canteen. It was just a small corner in a school, very humble beginnings. I told them that McDonalds probably began in this way! What was beautiful was listening to the story of how this venture had come to fruition. They had wanted to open the canteen six months before but it was not possible. At first they were disappointed but later they began to see the hand of God behind the events. God has his time. Sometimes we need to wait, and sometimes we need to act. This requires docility to the Spirit who always helps us to be on time for God’s plans. To trust that God will give us what we need.

This trust is visible in the life of the poor widow. Only the person who really has experience of God as the great provider can live with such freedom from material goods. Jesus criticizes those lawyers in the gospel who are trapped by the riches of this world. “Beware of those who devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.” In those times, lawyers used to serve as trustees of a widow’s estate. Those lawyers with a reputation for piety would get many clients. Jesus criticizes their hypocrisy.

How different the lawyer who came to visit us yesterday to give us a donation for our mission work. He is rich but he uses his wealth wisely. He said to us “It is harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of heaven!” With the peace and joy that this man radiates it is obvious that he is experiencing a taste of heaven already.

How to grow in this trust? How to acquire this heavenly vision whilst we are still pilgrims here on earth? Listening to Jesus. I see this, but I will consult my divine optician first before deciding. I see this Jesus, but what do you see? And the Word of God tells us what the Lord sees, what the Lord wants. Like Elijah asking the poor widow in the first reading for bread (1 Kings 17, 10-16). The widow responds “I have nothing baked; there is only a handful of flour in my jar and a little oil in my jug.” The famine is so severe that she believes her and her son will die soon. But Elijah puts his trust in the Word of the Lord, “For the LORD, the God of Israel, says, ‘The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry.’” The widow feeds Elijah and indeed, “she was able to eat for a year, and he and her son as well; the jar of flour did not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, as the LORD had foretold through Elijah.”

How to reach this level of trust in what the Lord is telling us? To trust more in what the Lord sees than what we see? The answer is the same as that given by the American cop in Manhattan. The world class violinist was looking for the Carnegie music hall for his solo recital. With his violin under his arm he asked the cop how he could get to the Carnegie music hall. “Practice man, practice…” replied the cop. Let us never get tired of exercising this dialogue with the Lord. Asking him, “Lord, what do you see in this situation? I see this but often I am short sighted. What do you see?” Growing in this trusting, loving friendship will help us overcome our fears and all the things that stop us giving ourselves generously to the Lord and for his Kingdom.

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