From My Poverty
Greetings on this the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings: 1 KGS 17:10-16; PS 146:7, 8-9, 9-10; HEB 9:24-28; MK 12:38-44
A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood (MK 12:42-44).
The Gospel reading paired with the first reading today gives a voice to two downcast widows. In the first case, we know her thoughts as she speaks with Elijah. In the second case, we know her thoughts because the eyes of the Lord are upon her and he teaches us from her poverty.
Just now I was collecting a couple of sticks, to go in and prepare something for myself and my son; when we have eaten it, we shall die (1 KG 17:12b).
The widow of Zarephath of Sidon suffered during the severe drought in the land. She and her son having reached the very bottom of poverty prepared to eat one last meal before dying. The Lord had a wonderful plan for her. Rather than dying, the Lord sent Elijah to her. For Elijah he was given the word she would be his caretaker. Upon his arrival and discovering her dire circumstances he first ministered to her. Or perhaps we can say it this way: they ministered to one another?
Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid. Go and do as you propose. But first make me a little cake and bring it to me. Then you can prepare something for yourself and your son. For the LORD, the God of Israel, says, ‘The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the LORD sends rain upon the earth.'” (1 KG 17:13-17).
She gave from her poverty. There was no pretense. There was no condemnation. Just the truth and her heart willing to share the truth of her insufficiency. The Lord accepted her and gave her the riches of the heavens. Immediately in the story she, her son and Elijah ate through the drought with a super abundant oil and flour. Even next beyond the reading Elijah resuscitates her son after he is near or at death. God provides.
In much the same way, the Gospel widow having prayed contributes her two cents. She gave from her poverty. There was no pretense. There was no condemnation. Just the truth and her heart willing to share the truth of her insufficiency. The Lord accepted her too and her wonderful gift from the heart.
Jesus wants the gift of our insufficiency
In actual fact, Jesus wants the gift of our insufficiency not our excess.
The Lord gladly and tenderly accepts these gifts coming from the greatest weaknesses within us. He wants these things because they are the gifts and signs of our greatest needs. He, himself.
The gifts are given in community
In the case of Elijah and the Temple gift, both gifts are given the context of community – the Church. Elijah has come to bring hope to the widow and her son and to all those in the vicinity. The prophet is here. The Lord is here with us in our difficulties. He is here among us and expresses his gifts through us — through our inadequacies. Here in this place is acceptance and the warm embrace of Christian love.
Hear the words of Saint John Paul II:
To everyone I say: love your parish; think of it as your home, your family, where you can meet, get to know one an-other, dialogue and reflect together on the principal problems which affect your community. However, most of all, you should find in it the strength and enthusiasm for a faith journey that is ever more shining and attractive, which will lead those who consider themselves “separated” to reflect on the beauty of faith in God, the Father of all, and in Christ Jesus, Redeemer of every person (November 10, 1991).
Give Jesus your poverty.
Peace be with you,