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November 13th, 2016 - Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 13th, 2016 - Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

"Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble‚ " - Malachi 3:19

I had the immense privilege of visiting the Little Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, the religious partners of CARITAS' Catholic child sponsorship programs in Uganda, during the summer of 2015. It was an eye-opening experience that helped me realize how much material wealth we have in the United States.

boys with porridge meal.jpgStudents at St. Alphonsus Demonstration School in Nkokonjeru, Uganda enjoying their porridge. Children who are sponsored through CARITAS' Catholic child sponsorship programs also enjoy this benefit.

For some Ugandan children, the only meal they can count on is the porridge and bread that they receive for lunch at school. That reality haunts me every time I go out to eat at a restaurant. It nags at my conscience every time I reach into the candy jar here at my office (which I do too often). 

Whenever I complain about the fact that "there is nothing to eat in the fridge", I think of those children and that porridge and bread, and it hits me with a healthy dose of shame. How dare I feel so entitled? How on earth can I be so ungrateful? 

In contrast, the Blessed Virgin Mary is someone who defines the virtue of gratitude. In the Gospel of St. Luke we hear Mary's Magnificat, her great song of thanksgiving and praise to God for making her the mother of the Savior. She says that the Lord "has looked with favor on his lowly servant . . . He has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly" (Luke 1:48-52). 

I have often looked at this passage and with an air of righteous indignation considered myself one of the lowly ones. "Yeah," I thought, "C'mon God, tear down all those rich celebrities and powerful politicians. If I don't get to live a life of luxury in a huge mansion, why should they?" 

But, the truth is, I am the mighty one on a throne. I am the proud one lost in my conceit. Compared to the children in places like Uganda, I am living a life of luxury and my average American apartment is a mansion.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola said that, "He who goes about to reform the world must begin with himself, or he loses his labor." God asks each of us to live more simply and let Him worry about judging those with power and wealth. In the end, all will receive their just reward. "The hungry will be filled with good things, and the rich will be sent away empty" (Luke 1:53). Which side will you be on?

Lord Jesus, help us to imitate Your Mother's example of humility and gratitude. Amen.