Homily for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, November 10, 2024, Year B

Fr. Charles Irvin
Diocese of Lansing

Some time ago I learned of a woman who as a child was crippled by polio. She became angry with God and was mean, nasty, and angry with everyone around her. She became a miserable human being.

By chance one day she came into contact with members of a parish who gave her a whole lot of love. She returned to that parish every Sunday and eventually joined it because there she found a lot of love from a lot of people. Her frozen heart warmed up. She found the freedom to “walk the spiritual walk” even though her body remained crippled.

As time went by, the parish entered into a campaign to raise funds. The woman surprised her family at that year’s family Thanksgiving Dinner by announcing that she was giving $45,000 to the parish in their building campaign. Her family was stunned. When they asked her where she was going to get all that money, she told them that throughout all her years since childhood she had been saving bit by bit in order to buy a handicap van with a lift. Now that she had the money, she decided to give it to the parish. Why? Because, she declared, her parish was now more important to her than her dream van. Said she: “I am so thankful that God healed me of my crippled heart. He gave me the freedom to walk in the way of His Son. I now need my parish more than I need that van.”

Another story is about a famous football player at the University of Texas named Earl Campbell. He won the Heisman Trophy. At the award banquet he publicly pointed to his mother, telling the audience that she had raised twelve children all by herself. Earl’s father had died when all of the children were young and without a lot of fanfare and notoriety she had successfully raised all twelve of her children. Said Earl Campbell: “There ought to be a Heisman Trophy for her and for people like her.”

My final story is of a woman in Detroit who had two boys to raise all by herself. Their father, her husband, had been shot dead when they were babies. She and her boys lived in Detroit’s inner city where she was a public school teacher. She had done a wonderful job with them, pouring out her whole life into them. Her two boys were in college and headed toward successful careers when they were both killed in a horrible accident on the bridge over to Belle Isle in the Detroit River.

What did she do? She went back to teaching in Detroit’s public schools, pouring out the rest of her life into other children in order to bring them to successful careers. Because of her, many lived happy and successful lives.

Finally, let me tell you of a single young woman with two boys. Her husband, their father, had died of cancer in his early thirties. Somehow she found the strength to go on. Then, several years later, she met a handsome, strapping young Viet Nam veteran who had come into her life and the lives of her boys.

They were engaged to be married. A few weeks prior to the wedding ceremony he was over at the home of this woman and her boys, up a tree in their front yard trimming its branches. The branch he was sitting on broke off. He fell to the ground and broke his neck. He was instantly paralyzed from the neck down, doomed to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair and on a ventilator. The accident happened just three weeks before they were to be married. This young woman, with two boys whose father had recently died of cancer, went ahead and married the man she now loved but who was a quadriplegic, forever to be in a wheel chair and on a ventilator. They joined their parish’s Youth Ministry team and devoted themselves to caring for the parish’s youngsters and teens. Their influence and gift to those kids obviously made an incredible impression on all who knew them.

These women whose stories I have just now shared with you make the women in today’s first reading and gospel account very real for me.

The question you and I face is this: “Do we give God what’s left over after we’ve taken care of everything else?” Or do we give God what we’re living for? We have much, and we can give God much. We can give God our trust, our reliance upon Him, our dependence upon Him. Take our daily efforts, for instance. Are they to accomplish our purposes or God’s purposes? They can be the same, you know. We can make our purposes God’s purposes, and we can make God’s purposes our purposes. Caring for the ones you love, caring for your wife, your husband, and your children is giving your life to God. Providing for the happiness of others is giving your life to God. Working for peace, working for justice and fairness in our world, and many other efforts is, in fact, giving your life over into God’s care.

Let’s be clear about it. God isn’t interested in your money. He has all of the riches He will ever need. No, God wants more than your money. God wants YOU. He wants your daily life. He wants to be what you depend on each day. He wants to be what you live on.

Our giving to God is only giving Him back what’s already His in the first place. But our giving God our hearts? Ah, that’s quite something else! The gift of your heart is what He’s looking for. It’s our gift to Him each time we’re at Mass. And when we gift Him with our love, when we give Him our hearts and our lives, our interests and desires, what He will give back to us cannot be measured.

One final story. Back in the time of England’s Queen Elizabeth the First, there was a retired admiral of the Royal Navy who in his retirement was now running a thriving business. The Queen asked him to return to military service during a time of this national crisis. The man hesitated, asking ” … but what will become of my business?” The Queen replied: “You look after my business, and I will look after your business.” When we look after God’s business, He will look after ours.

What requirements, what guarantees, do we expect from God when it comes to generously giving our love to Him? Can we have hearts and souls as trusting, as full of faith, and as generous in loving God as these women whose stories you have just heard?

Oh, and by the way … remember the woman crippled with childhood polio who was cured by the love of a parish she joined? Not only was her family stunned by her announcement that she was giving her $45,000 to the parish building campaign, but many of her fellow parishioners went down on their knees and back to their prayers to examine their own souls. And when a group of men heard of her sacrifice and experienced her radiant joy in her new found freedom, they banded together and bought her a lift-van anyway. They remained anonymous … and when she was presented with her new van there was a note on it from these parishioners that simply said: “Thank you for showing us how to walk with Jesus.”