by Dcn Les Ruhrmund
Today’s readings talk directly to the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity and I’d like to look at the readings within the context of the Year of Faith which began 4 weeks ago and finishes in November next year.
A reasonable question would be “Why a year of faith? Isn’t every year a year of faith in the Church?” In Pope Benedict’s words “We should look at faith as a lifelong companion that makes it possible to perceive, ever anew, the marvels that God works for us.” In a sense, the Holy Father is inviting Catholics to take their faith to another level – to deepen and develop it.
We must overcome the spiritual poverty affecting so many of our contemporaries who no longer perceive the absence of God from their lives as a void that needs to be filled. We see the advance of a spiritual famine; a widening desert of faithlessness. And yet it is in the desert that we rediscover the value of what is essential for living and in today’s world there are many signs of the thirst for God, for the ultimate meaning of life. It is in starting from the experience of this desert, from this void, that we can again discover the joy of believing, And people of faith are needed In the desert; people who, with their own lives, point out the way to the Promised Land and keep hope alive.
Today, more than ever, evangelizing means witnessing to a life transformed by God, and thus showing the way out of the desert.”We must rediscover a taste for feeding ourselves on the word of God and on the Bread of Life.”
Pope Benedict’s letter introducing the Year of Faith is titled “Porta Fidei”- the door of faith – and he reminds us that the door of faith is open to everyone and that in this year, those who are in the desert, those who thirst for God, those who seek real meaning in their lives, can find the door of faith through us. We are asked to “rediscover the journey of faith with renewed enthusiasm and joy in the encounter with Christ. It is the love of Christ that fills our hearts and impels us to evangelize. Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy. It makes us fruitful and enables us to give life-bearing witness.”
The widow in the first reading is a marvellous example of faith, hope and charity. She and her young son are on the brink of starvation. The whole country is in the grips of a terrible drought proclaimed by Elijah and when he arrives in her village and asks her for water to drink and bread to eat, she’s down to her very last handful of meal and a little oil kept in a jug. With these meagre ingredients she makes him a scone and then makes for herself and her son …and the jar of meal and the jug of oil are never exhausted. We’re told that Elijah stayed on in her home for some time and that there was sufficient food to keep them until the drought was broken.
The widow in the Gospel reading was exceptionally poor and yet in good faith, hope and charity she put her last two coins into the treasury box in the temple. And Jesus says that her tiny contribution was greater than all the others for the others had thrown in what they could spare easily enough and still have plenty left over, while the widow put in everything she had.
In this Year of Faith, we are not asked to give our last penny or offer our last grain of food but we are asked to give back to God from the blessings we have received. Taking a very practical approach we can give in three ways: time, talent and treasure.
Time – time more spent in prayer; visiting the sick at home and in hospital; time with the lonely, the lost and those who mourn. Sacrifice time that we would normally spend in personal pleasure in giving of our time in service.
Talent – there are many opportunities in and outside the church to share our gifts and abilities, training and experience in a way that brings glory to God and makes his love and presence real in the world.
Treasure – we can give generously from our income and wealth to those in need. The amount of the gift never matters as much as its cost to the giver; it’s not the size of the gift that counts, but the sacrifice. Real generosity gives until it hurts.
Our Archbishop is asking us in this Year of Faith to assist in building three churches situated in disadvantaged areas in greater Cape Town.
The parish of St Josephine Bakhita in Old Crossroads is 17 kms from St Michaels (not far from the airport). The community is very poor. The Church has been active there for about 50 years and on average some 200 people attend Mass over the weekend. The current church is a small shack and any parish activities outside of Mass are almost impossible.
The parish of St Elizabeth’s in Wallacedene is about 35kms from here on the other side of Kraaifontein. This is also a very poor community and while there are about 200 active parishioners it’s believed that there are many more Catholics in the area but they don’t come to the church because it is so small and many have to stand outside for Mass – not pleasant in the summer south-easter or the winter rains. The church building is a converted container and Fr Nkululeko often has to hear confessions in his car.
The parish of St Catherine of Sienna in Kleinvlei, Eerste Rivier is about 30 kms from St Michael’s and is a vibrant community with more than 650 families registered in the parish. Their current church was built with funds raised by the community in the 1970s and is now totally inadequate. They are busy with major renovations to the church and are building a hall and classrooms for catechism and other parish societies and functions. Archbishop Brislin wants to help them complete their renovations in this Year of Faith.
The Year of Faith is a blessed time; a time to live in practice what we profess as our faith in hope and charity.
Editor’s addition for those who want to donate:
Bank: Standard Bank
Branch: Thibault Square
Branch Code: 000909
Account Number: 070413320
Account Name: Archdiocese Of Cape Town Building Fund
Account Type: Current
Reference: Your Name and “Cross” or “Kvlei” or “Wdene” or “Any”