Sunday, 8 November 2009

Remembrance Sunday, 32rd Sun Ordinary Time, Year B, Shaftesbury

Mk 12:41-44; 1 Kings 17:10-16
Today is Remembrance Sunday, when we remember all those who died in the wars, and those continuing to die. We recall those who died in bravery and those who died in tragedy, those who died as acclaimed heroes and those who lie unknown.
We often, and rightly, speak of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defence of their country. But I want, this morning, to speak of the importance of self-sacrifice in general, and to do so in reference to the example we just heard Jesus refer to in what He taught us about sacrifice in the Widow’s Might (Mk 12:44).

The true value of the widow’s gift wasn’t known by the people around her.
If we think, in particular, of those soldiers who gave their lives in World War Two, they didn’t know the FULL effect and value of the sacrifice they made. They knew they were in a terrible war, but they didn’t know the even larger significance of it. When they died, neither they nor the Allies knew the true horror of the Nazi atrocities, of the millions killed in the gas chambers, of the millions in England who would have been killed if the Nazi had won. They didn’t know just HOW much they saved us from, and so their sacrifice had a value far beyond the one they realised.

The same must be said of any sacrifice, any good deed, and this is what the Lord Jesus was teaching about the Widow’s Might. The value of her offering wasn’t the money –after all, it was just a penny. The value of her offering was that it was her everything. And what gives this value is God, the God who watches over all our deeds, who accepts our sacrifices, our good deeds, our prayers, and indeed and our very lives –the God who uses and accepts them as prayers. He is a GOOD God, and prayer does change things.

God wants each of us to offer ourselves to him, to offer our lives as a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1; 1 Pet 2:5), a fragrant offering to the Almighty. In him our lives acquire a new supernatural value, one beyond what we can know.

Many of us can get discouraged from time to time over the effort of our lives, or over the way that there seems to be so little gain for the good works we can try to do. We can come to think that it’s not worth bothering. Why should I continue to be nice to that person when he never changes, when he’s never nice to me? Why should I be the only person at work who doesn’t use foul jokes and language, or the only person who refuses to be dishonest in business? Why should I continue to pray when nothing ever seems to change? Why should I clean up after the kids, yet again, when they’ll only mess up the place 2 seconds later?

Such discouragement is natural. But the lesson of the Widow’s Might is that there is more to life than the natural, more than we can see. If we judge ourselves only by what we see then we will grow discouraged, we’ll think that there is no point.
There is MORE to life. There is God, and the value He puts on our works. He accepts them as offerings to Him, and in the cosmic balance these offerings change the universe. In this our deeds have an effect we simply do not know. And there is heaven too, the eternal glory and merit that will be assigned to our deeds and our lives. If we forget this then we forget the true meaning of our life, and what gives true meaning to our actions.

The widow who gave her last bit of food to share it with the prophet Elijah didn’t know what lay in store for her. But she had faith to do good anyway, and God transformed her offering into more than enough food. God transforms our offerings too. He said that we will be repaid a hundredfold (Mk 10:30), and He is true to His promises.
To refer again to the sacrifice of those fighting the Nazis, we can see today that the ultimate sacrifice paid by those soldiers had a great value, but it’s full value will only be completely disclosed in heaven. Their sacrifice was greater than the ones that most of us encounter daily –but the same truth holds. We must never let ourselves be discouraged over what can seem like small effects of our good deeds: there’s a value and effect that transcends what we can see, and so it is worth being good.
They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn
at the going down of the sun, and at the rising
we will remember them.

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