Excerpts from Archbishop Miller's homily during a visit at Immaculate Conception Parish in Vancouver Nov. 11.
As many of you know, this past Thursday evening I began a visit of your parish which concludes this morning.
For me, the experience of meeting so many people who are engaged in the life of your parish family gives concrete witness that your community is flourishing under the shepherding guidance of your pastor, Father Paul, with the dedicated help of Father Ken, and the wonderful staff and volunteers.
A particular highlight of the last few days was accompanying Father Paul to St. Michael the Archangel church at Musqueam. A group of elders and others gathered for a ceremony in the church, where candles were lit in memory of deceased ancestors, and afterwards for a social time together. To be near the spot where the first Mass was offered on the Lower Mainland over two centuries ago was a moving experience and a poignant reminder of the long-standing and essential role that First Nations play within the community at Immaculate Conception Parish and in the Archdiocese as a whole.
It was also extremely gratifying to learn and see first-hand that the seismic upgrading of your school has been successfully completed. My sincere congratulations to all of you who made this project possible and saw it through to an on-time and on-budget conclusion – no small feat in this day and age.
Secondly, I remain impressed by how intentional and proud you all are of the sense of community here at IC. Almost everyone with whom I spoke commented on how they felt welcomed and nurtured by the sense of family that marks your parish. In an age of so much fragmentation and alienation, it is a great blessing to belong to a parish where you feel so much “at home.”
Thirdly, I have been inspired, by the many opportunities and initiatives available so that you can be personally engaged in one or more ministries offered. There are too many to mention here by name, but you all know that a parish cannot flourish unless everyone lends their hand.
There are countless spiritual gifts and talents present among you, and for this we should all give the Lord thanks for such abundance. But allow me one word of encouragement to everyone who comes to Mass here at Immaculate Conception but is not yet involved or only peripherally so. I urge you to become more engaged – or engaged for the first time – in making your contribution to building up the Body of Christ through your active involvement in one or more of the parish ministries, activities and organizations. If you have remained a little on the side-lines, give serious thought to finding a ministry where the Lord can use your gifts and talents for his service and the service of your brothers and sisters.
Lesson of the “Poor Widow”
Now to a short reflection on today’s Gospel. This Sunday’s passage provides us with an example of the true meaning of generosity.
The scene is set in the temple of Jerusalem, in the place where people are making their money offerings. Many rich people put in large sums that come “out of their abundance” (Mk 12:44). But there is also a poor woman, a widow, who contributes only “two small copper coins, which are worth a penny” (Mk 12:42). Jesus, who had been watching, observes the woman carefully and calls his disciples’ attention to the sharp contrast of the scene.
The wealthy contributed what for them was superfluous, while the widow, Jesus says, “put in everything she had, all that she had to live on” (Mk 12:44). For this reason, Jesus says, she gave the most of all. Because of her extreme poverty, she could have offered a single coin to the temple and kept the rest for herself. But she did not want to give just what she didn’t need to God; she divested herself of everything. She put herself in God’s hands for others – and Jesus tells us to do likewise.
Why did she do that? In her poverty she understood that in having God, she had everything. No doubt she felt completely loved by him and in turn loved him completely.
Today Jesus also tells us that the benchmark of charity is not about quantity but generosity of heart and trust. To love God “with all your heart,” as we heard in last week’s Gospel, means to trust in him, in his Providence, and to serve him in the poorest brothers and sisters without expecting anything in return.
Faced with the needs of others – whether or not theirs is a material poverty – we are often called to give up what is most precious to us, and not only what we think we can afford, whether that be financial resources or even what is often harder, of our time and talents. That is the lesson, I believe, of the poor widow whom Jesus presents to us as a teacher in today’s Gospel. She tells us is something so simple but so hard to believe: trust in God and his Providence and all will be well.
Dear friends: We will probably never be called on to share our last morsel with a starving neighbour or to give sacrificially to such an extent that we have nothing left. But we must remember that the Christian life is about giving, not taking; about relying on God’s grace, and not our own resourcefulness. Squandering ourselves in love for others is the vocation of every true disciple.
Let us ask the Lord during this Eucharist, his great act of self-giving, that we might enter into the world of his divine abundance and respond with similar generosity to all that he asks of us.
More information about Archbishop Miller's parish visits available here.