Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Message of the Widows

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 12, 2006
Reflections on the Readings by Dennis Hankins
I Kings 17:10-16; Psalm 146:7-10
Hebrews 9:24-28
Mark 12:38-44

The Message of the Widows

The Kingdom of God is not for sale.

Apparently Jesus had not heard of the gospel of wealth and prosperity. He described the scribes of his day as lovers of themselves. It is dangerous to equate material success with spiritual prowess. Nor is holiness automatic for those experiencing poverty. In Jesus’ day however, in contrast to Elijah, the scribes demanded honor and respect at the expense of the widows. By the word of the Lord, Elijah promised a widow of Zarephath an unending supply of flour and oil until the rains returned. We know from James 5:17, 18 that Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest.

Jesus condemned those who devoured widows houses and as a pretext recited lengthy prayers. Our Lord is not against prayer or robes or seats of honor in the synagogue. His remarks are about those who love their long robes and love to be greeted in the marketplace and loved sitting at places of honor. Although we may be puzzled by Elijah’s command to be fed first, it was not to deprive the widow as much as it was to bring her out of fear and into faith. Elijah was at the widow’s house in Zarephath by divine appointment. While the scribes preyed upon the helpless and the fatherless, Elijah preached about a God who defends and sustains the widows and the orphans.

We can be grateful for the witness of the widow of Zarephath. Our modern times need to remember the simplicity of her faith. Without wavering in faith she did what Elijah said; and she, and he, and her household ate for many days. This widow like the widow in the Gospel today share something in common. Both make all they have available to God. Concerning the poor widow in the Gospel St. Chrysostom said, “The Lord paid no attention to the amount of her money but only to the abundance of her generosity. When those of limited means respond faithfully to the full extent of their means, they express deeper faith than do those of greater means who respond only in part.”

I remember singing a song in the Pentecostal Church of my youth that said, Little is much when God is in it, labor not for wealth or fame, there’s a crown and you can win it, if you go in Jesus name. The eternal reward is greater treasure than all of the wealth of this world.

The widows remind us that we must give to God the things that belong to God. Their witness is an indictment of the spirit of this age, which is a ruthless spirit of greed. Let us be vigilant and sure that our heart is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, and, with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified.

Let us pray: Dear Jesus, sweet Jesus, what a wonder you are. In the midst of hunger you fed the multitudes. In the middle of a storm tossed sea, you spoke peace to the winds and the waves. And on the cross you told the penitent thief, “Today shall you be with me in paradise.” May I, like the widows and this repentant thief, find my life and all that I need in you. Amen.

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