Readings: 1 Kgs 17:10-16; Heb 9:24-28; Mk 12:38-44
The Lord provides to the generous; to those who give from their poverty. The readings of this Sunday reveal to us the Lord who provides to the generous; to those who give from their poverty. In the readings we encounter two widows who give generously out of their poverty. Both have great trust in God who cares for them. In the first reading from the Book of Kings, the widow of Zarephath seems to hesitate, but when reassured by prophet Elijah, she 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 widow receives far much more than she gave. The major insight of the message is that the poor tend to be more generous than the rich and thus more blessed by God. Because the widow trusts in God, God miraculously feeds her because of her faith and trust. Even though she only had a little bit of food left in a time of famine, she completely trusts in the words of the prophet. The poor evangelize us so much.
Again 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 four striking contrasts between the widow’s simple piety and the scribes and Pharisees. First we note that some of these religious leaders tended to be arrogant in their behavior. Second, 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). Third, 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. Four, the simple piety of the widow is contrasted to the dishonesty and hypocrisy of the religious leaders. Such behavior 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. The point that Jesus makes is that the value of what we offer is not necessarily judged by its quantity. Rather, 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 and Jesus in our reading. Both widows give everything they have to live on, risking their own lives. Similarly, Jesus sacrifices Himself on the Cross, giving up his life for others, that we may live. So what is the message? 1) Like the widows, our gifts must come from the poverty of our hearts in deep love and trust in God; 2) The Lord provides to the generous; to those who give from their poverty; 3) What we give depends on our spiritual disposition of risk-taking and self-sacrifice like the two widows. There is no better example of such risk-taking and self-sacrifice than what our Veterans have done and continue to do. May God bless all our Veterans.
©2018 John S. Mbinda