FR MICHAEL BIBLICAL IMAGERY
(Fr Michael Boakye Yeboah: Vice Rector of St Gregory Seminary, Kumasi-Ghana)
…I BEG TO DIFFER
Today’s first reading has been given misleading interpretation by some men of God but if that interpretation given by these men of God is the right one, then I beg to differ. We are told that the prophet Elijah encountered a poor widow at Zarephath and made countless demands of her. First the prophet asked for “a small cupful of water” and he went on to demand from the poor widow the food left for her and her child. The reading is being misinterpreted that men of God should enjoy at the detriment of their poor congregants. Stories are told of churches whereby pastors use biblical quotations like this to rob their congregants to the extent that they are virtually left with nothing as transport fare. The word of God should liberate people and not enslave them.
The “Gospel business” is turning ordinary “school dropouts” into multi-dollar millionaires. Some people in churches are getting poorer and poorer while some of their pastors are buying customized aircraft, living in luxurious palaces, and going for exotic holidays. The sad thing is even that some of these pastors do not pay tax. This is the reason why I would like to maintain that if God really want his pastors to enjoy life at the detriment of their poor congregants, then I beg to differ. Recently, I heard that the Head of State of an African country has come out with a policy/law to checkmate some of these “fake” men of God who have just entered the vineyard of God only to steal and destroy.
What men of God should encourage is the example we find in today’s Gospel reading. A poor widow gave all that she had to God but in this case, she gave willingly and not by force. In my life as a priest, I have witnessed thousands of petty traders and hawkers who like the poor widow donate generously every Sunday. Many of them dance cheerfully every Sunday to give to God. Like Christ, I praise their kindness to the Church. These petty traders and hawkers make minimal profits from their sales and yet these are the same people supporting local churches. In almost every Catholic Church, the congregants contribute twice every Sunday not forgetting special “appeal for funds” to one charity group or the other. I believe strongly that God who love cheerful givers will bless these petty traders and hawkers who are contributing for the growth of his Church.
The wealthy throw something of their surplus into the alms-box, an act that means no loss for them and gives them prestige in the eyes of men (At the beginning of the pericope Jesus insists on this theme of ambition, concluding with these words: “They will receive the severest sentence.”). When the widow tosses her two tiny coins in the box she is throwing in all she had to live on. She does it of her own free will and without attracting the attention of anyone except God. In this her deed surpasses that of the woman in the Old Testament. No words were exchanged, not even between Jesus and her. But, at the conclusion of his public teaching activity, Jesus lifts her up as an example perhaps without recognizing him, she has understood better than anyone else the meaning of all his words. Significantly he says nothing about a reward, in contrast to Elijah. The woman’s act is so radiant that it carries within it its own reward. May God bless all cheerful givers.