Homily for 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time B 2012 (Mark / S.Martin)
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11. November 2012, Fest des Hl. Martin von Tour - St. Elisabeth (Englischsprachige Gemeinde), Hamburg
1. The widow's two small coins
- A widow gives the little she has, into the treasury of the temple. Two small coins she had owned to buy something to eat that day. Now she will have to starve this day, or hope for a mild gift. That's all we know about her. And that Jesus brought attention to her as an counter-example to those "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."
- Nothing else we know about this woman. But the Gospel thus opens us the space to think about her. Certainly for this widow the gift was not without significance; alone materially there was for her a moment of significance.
- Perhaps it was a moment of devotion, surprising even this woman herself. To be a widow at that time meant to be without any perspective. Maybe this woman came to the temple, mentally occupied with her - legitimate! - worries . And then, in a spontaneous decision, she devoted to the temple the two coins, everything she had - and found in that devotion of hers a sign that could give meaning to her entire life.
2. Martins split cloak
- We do know more about Martin, the Roman soldier who became a saint. His friend and disciple, Sulpicius Severus, in his hagiography "Vita sancti Martini" (dating from around 420) tells us about the saint's life as he understood it. In particular he has preserved for us the famous scene in which Martin shares his military cloak in order to preserve in the bitter cold outside the city gate of Amiens a trembling beggar from freezing to death.
- Martin was not baptized at this time. But he had already begun to focus his life on Christ. Therefore, this was an act of charity yet prepared and spontaneous. The act was prepared because Martin had given away his salary earlier to the poor, so he had at this moment nothing more than his coat and his sword. The sword he used, not to wage war with it, but to part of the mantle and give one half to the beggar. Martin was prepared by his attention to the Gospel. But the act in which he gave away half the cloak was still spontaneous.
- This act is told up to today. This act would also influence Martin's own life. On the one hand his spontaneous generosity led to the laughter of the bystanders. This soldier with half a coat seemed to have lost all his pride and honor. Martin looked ridiculous. On the other hand, there was one who has encouraged him: That night in his dreams Christ himself appeared to Martin, wearing the half cloak of the beggar. In this way, Martin has learned that Christ strengthens him not to pay attention to the reputation among the people, but to follow his heart - and therein to meet Christ.
3. Sacraments of everyday life
- The one moment became the key to Martin's personal life. Again and again he came into situations where Others sought the higher prestige only; they have attacked him because he did not want to live like everyone else. Even after he was elected bishop of the city of Tours in France, Martin remained the simple man, living ascetically and in constant communion of prayer. It was the very time when the church became the Church of the Caesars - free at last, and yet in great danger to secularize.
- Back then there were the heresy of Arianism. Martin fought against this doctrine, that was supported by the emperor. That did bring him in conflict with most of his fellow bishops. Arianism took offense at the idea that God himself appeared in the poor shape of a human being. Arianism said, that the crucified and poor can only be a reflection of God, but never God himself. But Martin had met this God personally at the gate of Amiens. It was only a small, spontaneous moment. And yet it did influence all his life.
- These moments we can hardly overvalue. To others they may appear ridiculous and absurd. But at such moments we can experience the God who makes us able to excel our self. The two coins of the widow, the half coat of Martin, they are sacraments of God's presence in everyday life. They can bring light to the whole life. Amen.