Pope Francis’ famous question comes to my mind “Who am I to judge?”

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

1Kings 17:10 - 16

In those days, Elijah the prophet went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the entrance of the city, a widow was gathering sticks there; he called out to her, "Please bring me a small cupful of water to drink." She left to get it, and he called out after her, "Please bring along a bit of bread." She answered, "As the LORD, your God, lives, I have nothing baked; there is only a handful of flour in my jar and a little oil in my jug. Just now I was collecting a couple of sticks, to go in and prepare something for myself and my son; when we have eaten it, we shall die." Elijah said to her, "Do not be afraid. Go and do as you propose. But first make me a little cake and bring it to me. Then you can prepare something for yourself and your son. For the LORD, the God of Israel, says, 'The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the LORD sends rain upon the earth.'" She left and did as Elijah had said. 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.

Hebrews 9:24 - 28

Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself, that he might now appear before God on our behalf. Not that he might offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters each year into the sanctuary with blood that is not his own; if that were so, he would have had to suffer repeatedly from the foundation of the world. But now once for all he has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by his sacrifice. Just as it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment, so also Christ, offered once to take away the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.

Mark 12:38 - 44

In the course of his teaching Jesus said to the crowds, "Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation." He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, "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."When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven."

This Sunday’s gospel reading teaches us the true meaning of giving; the poor widow who contributes “out of her poverty” and shares her “two small copper coins, which are worth a penny” with those poorer than herself (Mark 12:42, 44).

The first reading tells us about the widow who is not afraid to do as Elijah asks and makes him a cake with what little she has remaining in her jar of meal and jug of oil. She has faith in the promise of the God of Israel as spoken through Elijah, “The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth” (1 Kings 17:14). Indeed, the jar of meal does not empty and the jug of oil does not fail. Her faith has turned into abundant grace. It is an inspiring story for us to bear in mind as the season of giving approaches.

Let us also hear from the Holy Father about works of mercy in the present day and age. Pope Francis said that in this media-driven era, the current trend is for us to be moved by a certain image in the media, or by a certain item of news, or a campaign for a certain cause. Generous donations are made and in this way, one can contribute to alleviate the suffering of many. This form of charity is important, the Pope said, but it does not directly get us involved as when we cross the path of a person in need, when we see poverty in the flesh of a man, a woman, or a child. Gradually we get into the habit of avoiding those in need, not approaching them and following the current trend of keeping away from them. The Pope asked his audience on October 19, 2016, “Do I look elsewhere and walk by? Or do I stop to speak to him and take an interest in his situation? […] Do I see if I can welcome this person in some way, or do I try to get away from him as soon as possible? But perhaps he is only asking for what is needed: something to eat and drink” (“Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty” Pope Francis’ General Audience, St Peter’s Square, October 19, 2016).

When I ask myself the same questions, I must admit that I often have a hard time getting near people on the streets as society seemingly offers an adequate social security network to the unemployed and the less fortunate. I fail to understand why people need to ask for food and drink; I even think that their present predicament must be the outcome of bad decisions they have made in life. I want to keep away from them, as Pope Francis precisely observed. But Jesus teaches us that these people are my neighbours. Is it right for me to draw a conclusion without any knowledge about them? They might have been driven to the margins of society by pressures beyond what they can bear. If I were put to the test in their circumstances and experience what they have experienced in life, would I make the same decisions and end up on the streets? I don’t know; I have not been tested. Maybe I would be like them; maybe I would fare worse than these people whom I want to avoid. Then Pope Francis’ famous question comes to my mind: “Who am I to judge?”

Posted: November 11, 2018

Shiu Lan

Shiu Lan is your Catholic neighbour with a simple faith and likes praying the Rosary. With a B.Sc from the University of Hong Kong, she worked in Information Technology and Project Management before working with joy at home.

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