November 8: Thirty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
Readings: 1 Kings 17:10-16; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44
The readings of this Sunday make us more deeply aware that indeed God is the helper of the poor when they turn to him in faith and trust. In the readings we encounter two widows who give generously out of their poverty. Both of them have great trust in God who cares for them. In the first reading from the Book of Kings, the widow of Zarephtha seems to hesitate, but when reassured by prophet Elijah, trusts and hopes in God. “She left and did as Elijah had said. She was able to eat for a year, and he and her son as well; the jar of flour did not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry”. Therefore the story ends with God multiplying the meal flour and the oil in the jug, “as the Lord had foretold through Elijah.” The major insight of the message is that the poor are usually more generous than the rich and thus more blessed by God. Because the widow trusts in God, God miraculously feeds a widow because of her faith and trust. Even though she only had a little bit of food left in a time of famine, she trusts in the words of the prophet.
In the Gospel we meet another widow at the temple. Jesus challenges us to imitate her and the poor because of their deep faith and trust in God. There are striking contrasts between the widow’s simple piety and the scribes and Pharisees. Some of these religious leaders tended to be arrogant in their behavior. Unlike the rich who were putting a lot of money in the Temple treasury out of their surplus, the poor widow offers everything she possesses “her whole livelihood”(life). Secondly, this widow is not only honest with God, but she also deeply trusts in God’s providence. That is the kind of generosity God expects from us. Thirdly, the simple piety of the widow is contrasted to the dishonesty and hypocrisy of the religious leaders. Such behaviour it is contrary to our Christian calling. Jesus draws our attention to the times we tend to misuse external symbols to draw attention to ourselves or to remind people of how much we have contributed. Moreover Jesus reminds us that we pray in order to enter into a deep relationship with God, and not to draw attention to ourselves as being prayerful or more religious than others. The point that Jesus makes is that the value of what we offer is not necessarily judged by its quantity. What does that mean? Jesus aims at challenging our actions that must correspond to our inner life. Christ uses the beautiful example of a poor widow to underline that message. The spiritual disposition of the giver moved by the spirit of self-sacrifice is more important. Any parading of our contributions before others or demanding recognition renders such gifts just a show. There is a striking common thread linking the two widows in our readings today and Jesus. The widow who feeds the prophet Elijah knew the will of God. Similarly, the widow who gives her last two coins also knew the will of God. Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself on the Cross for our sins because knew the will of God. So what is the message? 1) The readings challenge us to imitate the poor so that our self offering and our gifts may come from the poverty of our hearts in deep love and trust in God; 2) The poor are usually more generous than the rich and thus more blessed by God because they give out of poverty; 3) The main point is that what we offer depends on our spiritual disposition of risk-taking and self-sacrifice like the two widows.
©2009 John M. Mbinda