32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)
November 11, 2012


Jose Feliciano of old crooned that “love comes from the most unexpected places.” True. But so does generosity. It comes, lived, shown, and practiced even by persons least expected to do so.

Years ago, during the Ormoc tragedy in the Philippines, something beautiful for God and humanity happened. A long line of hungry and weary people were snaking through, waiting to receive relief goods. Foreign press people were present, with flash lights popping and cameras whirring. At a certain point everyone including the relief distributors was sure … there was not going to be enough for everyone in the long line.

At the end of the line was a little girl of about five. She was patient and hopeful, and even if she saw the supplies dwindling, she, together with all the rest, stayed on, trudged on, slowly towards where the supplies were. When it was her turn, there was absolutely nothing to give … not a bag, not a packet, not a forlorn tin can, or a mashed bag of instant noodles. There was nothing but an overripe and mushy banana.

Sadly and reluctantly, the women distributing food had to give her the soggy half-rotten banana. Her face fell as she was handed the banana, but still managed to flash a smile, obviously grateful that she got at least that. The cameras were panning towards her direction. Everyone’s eyes were focused on her. She ran as fast as she could towards a certain direction. The cameraman and press people felt their hearts pounding, not knowing where she was going and how this emerging story was going to end.

The little girl surprised the watching world. The cameraman could not see clearly anymore, as he witnessed and made the world witness the generosity of one who hardly had anything to give. The little girl scooped her little brother slumped on the ground, as hungry and dirty as she was, and gave him half the almost rotten banana she had.

Selflessness, generosity, and greatness do come from the most unexpected places!

The widow was one such proof. She was at the end of her rope. But she was by no means at the end of her wits, and oozing generosity. Her greatness shone through insignificant worthless things: sticks, a handful of flour, and a little oil. That was it! And confronted with a demanding prophet, asking her for food to eat, the widow gave the last she had … her last guarantee of a few additional hours of existence, with no more to spare!

Praise the Lord, my soul for the widow! Praise the Lord, my soul, for that little girl. Praise the Lord, my soul, for Thou giveth – and taketh away … for Thou giveth life while literally killing!

Yes, it is right and just to praise the Lord. The letter to the Hebrews rightly speaks of Him as one who sacrificed and offered Himself generously, once and for all, for that little girl and boy, for you, for everyone who laughs now, and everyone who mourns now.

Scribes are long in robes, but short in generosity. They love to accept greetings and seek out the best seats in the house, but they “devour the houses of widows.”
Praise the Lord even for them! Praise the Lord for all irresponsible and greedy loggers who directly caused the tragedy at Ormoc, and other tragedies in the Philippines! In pain, they, too, can teach us the opposite of what they show us – the opposite of greed, which is generosity and magnanimity!

Praise the Lord, my soul for this Sunday! Today is a day of widows, and widows’ mites, and children bereft of childhood on account of indifferent humanity and because of adults’ irresponsibility!

Today, we learn a telling lesson – that generosity can shine even in the most unexpected places, and be shown even by the most unexpected people. Yes, scribes can potentially shine, too. Poor widows can give more than people who have thicker wallets and stuffed pocketbooks. But widow or not, rich or poor, scribe or plebeian alike … lay or ordained … we all can shine … we all can rise to the occasion and prove once again, that generosity, greatness – and yes – love, too, can come from the most unexpected places!

May this place be here! May this time be now!