Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily Nov. 8.
There are four short words on all American money that used to fill me with pride but which are now no longer even the truth, if they ever were. The words are “In God We Trust.”
Some of us do trust in God but as a nation we don’t. Most people trust not in God’s providence but rather in their own ability to do for themselves. People work very hard to fulfill not God’s expectations but rather the expectations of others and place their confidence not in God’s truth and Jesus’ eternal promises, but rather in our consumer society’s self-serving falsehoods and empty promises.
The same is true elsewhere, but no other country has the nerve to claim otherwise on its money, which ironically is by far the most common object of idolatry we have.
It’d be much more truthful to have printed “In this Dollar We Trust,” or “In the Right to Choose We Trust, In Superior Firepower We Trust, In Private Property We Trust, In Modern Medicine We Trust, In Popular Opinion We Trust,” but not “In God We Trust,” because as a nation we don’t.
In today’s readings we have the story of two women who did trust in God. Elijah promises a poor widow that if she is generous with what little she has, God will provide that her “jar of flour not go empty and her jug of oil not run dry.” She trusted that if she was faithful to God, he’d be faithful to her and provide for her needs.
And as for our Gospel, that poor widow’s two coins could in fact truthfully have born the words “In God We Trust” because they were all she had. By donating them to the Temple she placed her trust in God’s providence, confident that if she was faithful to God, he would be faithful to her.
So how about you? Trusting in God doesn’t mean that we not plan for the future or that we not avoid credit card debt, but it does mean that we should not worry unnecessarily about a future that is ultimately out of our hands. Trusting in God means making God’s will the no. 1 priority in our lives, especially when we can’t see how it’s all going to work out.
For instance, how many kids can you afford? The right answer is: just as many as God gives you! Of course, God did give us brains, so we should act wisely, which in many cases would include using natural family planning to work with God in regulating births when that seems appropriate.
We are not a poor country and you are not a poor person, certainly not by world standards. And even if you were, if you are faithful, God will provide, even though you may have to struggle a bit. Ask people you know who have large families; they’ll tell you it’s true! You may have to sacrifice some unnecessary things you might want but all of your genuine needs will be met, often in ways you would never have expected.
I once had three very inspiring families in a parish I served that adopted 10 Ethiopian orphan children. These were “institutional” children who had been warehoused in a desperately poor orphanage. One of these families already had nine children; they adopted three of the children and later an American crack baby. Another family with five children adopted one child, and a third family with three children adopted six of the children all at once.
None of these families was rich financially — in fact the opposite is true. But they are rich spiritually — that family that ended up with 13 children (nine plus four adopted) has already produced two vocations to the priesthood.
You can be rich spiritually too if you will learn to trust in God in all things. If you are generous and faithful to him, he’ll be faithful to you and provide for all your needs — and by the way, as your desires become simpler and more in accord with God’s will, even all your desires begin to be met.
This example of being open to God’s will regarding family size is true for every other area of life as well, for instance: how to hear and respond to God’s call in your life, how to care for elderly parents, how to behave at work, whether to accept a job transfer or turn it down, and so on.
Do you trust in God’s providence or are you like most other Americans who say “In God We Trust,” but really don’t? But it is true: if you are faithful to God and do his will as best you can, he’ll be faithful to you and provide for all your needs!
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