Once it so happened that two worn out currency bills of a hundred dollar and a one dollar met each other at the end of their tenure. They shared among themselves the places they happened to go. Hundred dollar bill very proudly said, “Soon after was I printed, I went into the hands of the richest man, then into the hands of CEO of Google. From his hands, I went to the hands of a chief of CIA, from whose hands I went to a five star hotel. By then I was soiled and I am here.” The one dollar bill said, “As soon as I was printed, I was placed in the offertory box of immaculate conception shrine. From there, I went to Episcopalian church. Then I happened to reach a poor person who put me in a dilapidated church in a remote village. I was there for quite sometime. By the time, I was dirty and I am here.” The hundred dollar bill asked, “All the time you were mentioning ‘Church’. What is it? I have never heard about it.”
This anecdote points out how people, in general, are stingy when it comes to give to the causes of religion. In general, when it comes to the matter of God, we are more interested in receiving than giving. Today’s readings invite us to be the persons of selfless giving. The first reading talks about the generous giving of the widow of Zarephath. Even though she knew that death, caused by hunger, was imminent, yet she dared to share with Elijah the meager amount of flour she had. It shows, how in the midst of utter poverty, she upheld the love of others. The gospel speaks of the contribution of a widow – the contribution which manifested her total and complete dependence on God. It shows, how in the midst of utter poverty, she upheld the love of God. And in the second reading, the author of the book of Hebrews talks about the total self-sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. It shows, how in the midst of excruciating pain on the cross, he upheld the love of God and of others.
In the Bible, the words ‘giving,’ ‘offering’ and ‘sacrifice’ etc., denote surrender. When it is said that the widow gave whatever she had, it simply means that she totally surrendered herself unto God. Here we need to understand that giving or surrendering ourselves unto God is not going to increase anything on the part of God. God is never less by our non-giving. Nor is he anything more by our giving. Instead surrender is very much necessary for us, the human. Surrender helps us in two ways. Firstly, it helps us reduce our suffering, and secondly it begets God’s blessing.
a). Surrender & Suffering:
Most of our sufferings have their roots in attachment. Buddha said, “Attachment is the root cause of all sufferings.” (Quite often we erroneously say that desire is the root cause of suffering. Buddha, in Pali language, used the word tanha, whose right translation is attachment/aversion, and not desire.) When a person is attached to something, one begins to say, “This belongs to me” or “That belongs to me.” Whenever something unwanted takes place in the thing/person to which one is attached, naturally it affects the person too. The more a person is attached, the more sorrowful one is. In surrender, we tell God that everything belongs to Him and nothing belongs to us. Surrender is nothing but detachement. When this spirit of detachment prevails in a person, one will not be affected by what happens outside of oneself. In other words, one begins to be equanimous and the level of suffering will go down drastically.
There was a king who spent sleepless nights because of various problems in his kingdom. A well-known intelligent sage once came to meet the king. The king told the sage of his problem and said, “I would be happy to give up the kingdom to any capable person and retire into an unknown place in order to regain my happiness.” The sage said, “Why don’t you give it to your son?” “Well! he is too young!” was the answer. “Why don’t you give it to your wife?” the sage asked. “Well! She is like me. She too would suffer” came the answer. Then the sage asked, “If that is the case, Why don’t you give it to me?” The king happily accepted the proposal since he knew the caliber of that sage. Then the sage asked, “Now you are not the king. Where do you want to go?” He said, “I don’t have any specific plan.” The sage said, “If so, why don’t you do the job which you know already. You just be my servant and rule the kingdom. Don’t worry about the problems and the troubles. Just give your best in ruling the kingdom. The rest I will take care.” The king accepted it. He ruled the kingdom without worrying about the results. He just did everything to the best of his abilities. The results were remarkable. The kingdom improved a lot and at the same time the king never lost his sleep.
This is the power of surrender. When a person thinks that s/he is the master of everything, all the vagaries of life begin to affect one and it leads to anxiety and restlessness. Instead, when a person surrenders oneself into the hands of God and does one’s best, life turns out for the best.
b). Surrender & God’s Blessings:
The second important thing that we need to understand while we speak about surrender is that surrender can beget the choicest blessings of God. When a person surrenders oneself into God’s hand, it can be said that the person is creating space for God. Contrastingly, when a person is full of oneself, then there is no place for God in one’s life. Through surrender, when a person creates space for God in oneself, then naturally God fills that person with choicest blessings and graces. This is what we see in the case of the widow of Zarephath. By giving she received more. The well-known words of St. Francis of Assisi are: ‘In giving we receive.’
Creating space for God in our lives involves a continuous self-emptying and self-giving. Quite often we are full of ourselves – our desires, our egoism, our pride, our attachments etc. When we are full of ourselves, we keep God out of our lives. It is only when we develop the courage and guts to throw away the ego with all its various manifestations, it can be said that we create space for God in our lives.
Let us rejoice and thank God for 90 years of guidance and protection to our community. This year our Lady of Sorrows celebrates 90th anniversary of its foundation (1928). Fr. Charles Windels, ss.cc. decided to build a new church at Ewa and the old wooden church was transported to Wahiawa and dedicated to our Lady of Sorrows. Today we stand on a high ground proclaiming Christ to Wahiawa and beyond. As we look back the road we trod, we are grateful for all the missionaries, priests, religious men and women who have served and gave their lives for this God’s work.
When the first Mass was celebrated in the present Church on December 13, 1959, Bishop Sweeney said, “ In this church may your faith be renewed week after week by the greatest gift God has given to his people – the Mass”. We are nourished and strengthen by the same Eucharist even today.
This year August 4, we had our Wahiawa family fair at Wahiawa District Park, participated by different churches in Wahiawa area. As I was at our Lady of Sorrows booth, a elderly person asked me “How come it is Our Lady of Sorrows, When we read in Scriptures, Mary sings that her soul rejoice in the Lord”? A Perfect question from a evangelical church member to a Catholic priest.
Our Mother rejoices always in God even when she had to suffer. Her sorrows are about Jesus. Her sorrows are means to participate in the suffering of Jesus. But she is not our Lady of Sadness. She had to face trials and challenges in her life. She accepted it all as the will of God which made her not to be sad rather joyfully doing His will. She is our Lady of Sorrow because she shared in Her Son’s suffering. She felt the pain but bore it all for the redemption of the human race with her Son. Today she inspires us with her example to bear all the challenges of life with a hope one day we shall overcome.
During these days of novena, I am praying for all of you parishioners especially for all our sick and suffering. I pray for the grace of perseverance and strength to face the challenges of life like Mary did, so that we may all win His Kingdom. AMEN.
Dear Sisters and Brothers.