November 21, 2011 - Memorial of The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today's Readings

One common theme in both our readings today is faithfulness. Daniel decided to be faithful. He was an exile, a child in a foreign land. Now the king, the very king who invaded his land and brought him to Babylon as a prisoner, wants him to study to be an advisor to the government. I could imagine him being too afraid. I could imagine him being too proud, thinking that he will never serve his enemy. Instead he is faithful. God told the Israelites to build up lives for themselves in exile, so Daniel puts aside his fear, his pride, his anger, and every other impediment and accepts the position.

Then within his decision, he is faithful. He shows two kinds of faithfulness: faithfulness to God and faithfulness to his work. He is faithful to God by refusing to eat the food, the meat and wine, which was sacrificed to idols. He is faithful to his work by studying hard. Indeed, he and his companions from Israel are judged to be superior to he other students. If something is worth doing, it is worth doing well. Faithfulness to our work means putting in our best effort out of respect for ourselves.

The widow in the Gospel also shows faithfulness. Although it is not clear in this translation, she is not merely poor; she is a beggar. She has spent the whole day begging and has gotten, let us say, twenty cents. She then goes to the temple and puts two of the cents, ten percent, in the collection. She is being faithful to the tithe. If she asked me, I would have told her that she should hold on to every cent she can, that she cannot afford to be tithing, yet she does tithe. She is faithful.

Our readings do not make light of the struggles: Daniel is still an exile, soon to be thrown in the lion’s den, and the woman is still a beggar, but in their faithfulness they have a certain integrity and self-respect which many well-off people lack. Do not underestimate the value of knowing that you have done your best work and have been faithful to the commands of God. Success as the world sees it, measured in money or influence or fame, is of little value compared to hearing someday, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”