“One hundred years ago, on Nov. 11, 1918, World War I ended. The fighting ended at 11 a.m. Paris time, “the eleventh hour on the 11th day of the 11th month.”
The armistice was agreed upon at 5 a.m. on Nov. 11. While news spread quickly, fighting continued until 11 a.m. Army Pvt. Henry Gunther of the 79th Division was killed at 10:59 a.m., a minute before the Armistice took effect. He was the last American killed in World War I.
As many as 4.7 million Americans served in the military during World War I. About 116,000 Americans died and 204,000 were wounded.
Armistice Day became a national holiday in 1919. In 1954, Armistice Day was rededicated as Veterans Day to honor all American veterans.”
Today’s Gospel lesson is all about honor, really, at least as much as it is about generosity. First, we hear Jesus making a little fun of the Scribes, the religious bigwigs of His day. Jesus says that Scribes wear funny clothes and make orations out of their prayers in order to get noticed, so that people will honor them for being so pious and polished.
There’s something embarrassing about all that striving for honor, is there not? Jesus thought so. It’s not that being honorable is a bad thing – let me point that out very clearly here – it’s the striving that gets people in trouble. As Eleanor Stump put it, “There is something shameful about trying hard to get honor.”
“It follows that Christians should not care about honor. In fact, if a person who seeks honor is shameful, then it seems that a person who strives not to care about honor is honorable. And so it seems that it ought to be a point of honor with Christians that they disdain honor. But here things can begin to slide out of control.
“Suppose you seek the honor of disdaining honor. Does this seeking after honor make you like the scribes? If it is shameful to seek after honor, is it also shameful to seek after the honor of disdaining honor? And if it is shameful to strive for honor and also shameful to strive to disdain honor, is there any road at all to honor?
“It is worth noticing that in the Gospel reading, Jesus singles out a widow for honor. Poor as she is, she is giving from the little she has in order to help those who are needier than she is. Jesus praises her and points her out as an exemplar of goodness. To be praised by Jesus is to be honored indeed!
So how did that widow get this singular honor? The first thing to notice about her is that she wasn’t striving for honor, as the scribes were. Although Jesus noticed her, she wasn’t trying to get noticed.
And the second thing to notice about her is that she wasn’t trying to disdain honor either. The only thing she was trying to do is to help those in need. And so her behavior shows the solution to the puzzle about honor. The only true road to honor is to love the good and pay no attention at all to honor one way or another.”
To love the good and pay no attention to honor. If that sounds correct and familiar, it’s because we celebrate today all the men and women who have served in our nation’s armed forces, who have set themselves between us and tyranny in all its forms, regardless of the consequences. We celebrate them because they did that with honor and not for honors, and so they are indeed honorable.
What is left for us is to love the good, to honor the good, and to live in such a way that Jesus might point at us from across the street and say, “Be like her.”