While we may not think of being “empty” as a good thing, we must realized that these moments of spiritual and physical “poverty” happen in life. Sometimes this emptiness comes to us like the widow in today’s gospel (who gave all she had from her poverty) and sometimes someone like Fr Leger, a Cardinal of the church who chose to leave his place in the world for a life of being empty, only to serve those who are also impoverished. Either way, God can work miracles through emptiness.
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.”
Leaving Safety to be Empty with Others
The story of Paul Emile Leger seemed to have little to do with this Sunday’s gospel on the outset, however the faithfulness of the Holy Spirit always leads us to examine someone’s exemplary action of virtue in order to form ourselves more deeply in faith and action.
Fr Paul Emile Leger became Archbishop of Montreal and a then was made a cardinal. He had the most powerful role in the church in all of Canada, yet he was greatly affected by the crisis of faith that he saw in the church, and knew it was time to make a great change.
“Even if nature rebels at the thought of leaving so many friends and so many memories, I have experienced a great peace. For peace is the fruit of unity and I know now that I will speak with a new sincerity of the problems which cause so much anguish, to the human conscience. You know these problems: On one hand, hunger in the world, underdevelopment, illiteracy, the silent suffering of thousands of lepers — on the other hand a technocratic, efficient, automated and sophisticated.
“The time has come to go from words to actions. I wish to dedicate the few years allotted me to giving spiritual and material assistance to the lepers. And so I am leaving for Africa.” (as quoted from the Register article cited above.)
How the world might see it…
For a Cardinal to surrender this kind of position where one would seem to be so affecting (and no doubt through years of anguish over matters of great responsibility) could only be done with God’s grace. Often we see that things that make no sense to the world are exactly what God directs us to do in His service. Likewise would the world criticize the poor widow giving her “two cents” to the treasury for church, probably using the logic that this would end up costing “us” somehow, by having to help take care of the poor from our own pockets.
What kind of spirituality is this?
In the article, Fr Leger explains the need to be personally ministering to those who need it most and this is what is called “person to person” spirituality, which is after our own hearts and the heart of Christ. Certainly there are many situations where we are called to appeal to a group of people, but Jesus himself went about healing people one at a time even if in a crowd. We too feel most affective when we see the change of heart someone has when we share Christ with them or attend to a certain need they have. What does this look like in the eyes of the church and what does this look like on us?
How do we live this message?
The past few times we have met, we felt the Holy Spirit was guiding us all in what it looks like to give from our emptiness. It seems that once you are in a relationship with God, you want to care more for others. These are referred to by the church as the Corporal and Spiritual works of mercy (image below from the Center Apostolate Center Website.)
Sometimes when we are in moments of difficulty, we feel as though we cannot help anyone or we cannot “produce.” The vision of what we have in our minds to be “producing” looks very different than what the church describes above in the works of mercy. God uses even our smallest efforts to arise from darkness. Sometimes this means just sharing our struggles with a friend. Others can benefit from our sharing struggles by accompanying us in such moments, thereby negating loneliness and the devoid.
Like the widow that gives from her emptiness in the gospel, and like Fr Leger who felt the need to vacate a life of prestige to serve the sickest and the poorest of the world, we should not feel useless when we seem to have nothing. It is in these very moments that we lose the pride that makes us feel falsely “autonomous” and “successful”, and we turned back to God for grace to be filled once more. Our suffering creates space in us that permits our dependency on the Lord. We need not be afraid of those low moments we experience. We should, however, try to use these moments to be with others. In doing so, we turn all that weighs upon us into a powerful weapon where God exponentially creates love and healing through suffering as He did from the cross.
Virtue of the week: Justice
How we plan to act: Daily, assign struggles, sufferings or unpleasant tasks as an offering for a specific person or cause in prayer.
I offer my back pain for my friend who is struggling with cancer.
I offer washing the dishes for Pope Francis to do the will of Jesus and unify the church.
I offer changing my child’s diapers today for all elderly people who are alone in nursing homes.
I offer my unpleasant exchanges with my supervisor at work for a friend who has a child with depression.
How we will pray this week for an increase in the virtue of Justice…
The Prayer of Pope Clement XI
Lord, I believe in you: increase my faith.
I trust in you: strengthen my trust.
I love you: let me love you more and more.
I am sorry for my sins: deepen my sorrow.
I worship you as my first beginning,
I long for you as my last end,
I praise you as my constant helper,
And call on you as my loving protector.
Guide me by your wisdom,
Correct me with your justice,
Comfort me with your mercy,
Protect me with your power.
I offer you, Lord, my thoughts: to be fixed on you;
My words: to have you for their theme;
My actions: to reflect my love for you;
My sufferings: to be endured for your greater glory.
I want to do what you ask of me:
In the way you ask,
For as long as you ask,
Because you ask it.
Lord, enlighten my understanding,
Strengthen my will,
Purify my heart,
and make me holy.
Help me to repent of my past sins
And to resist temptation in the future.
Help me to rise above my human weaknesses
And to grow stronger as a Christian.
Let me love you, my Lord and my God,
And see myself as I really am:
A pilgrim in this world,
A Christian called to respect and love
All whose lives I touch,
Those under my authority,
My friends and my enemies.
Help me to conquer anger with gentleness,
Greed by generosity,
Apathy by fervor.
Help me to forget myself
And reach out toward others.
Make me prudent in planning,
Courageous in taking risks.
Make me patient in suffering, unassuming in prosperity.
Keep me, Lord, attentive at prayer,
Temperate in food and drink,
Diligent in my work,
Firm in my good intentions.
Let my conscience be clear,
My conduct without fault,
My speech blameless,
My life well-ordered.
Put me on guard against my human weaknesses.
Let me cherish your love for me,
Keep your law,
And come at last to your salvation.
Teach me to realize that this world is passing,
That my true future is the happiness of heaven,
That life on earth is short,
And the life to come eternal.
Help me to prepare for death
With a proper fear of judgment,
But a greater trust in your goodness.
Lead me safely through death
To the endless joy of heaven.
Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.