Sunday, Nov. 11, is the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time. Mass Readings: 1 Kings 17:10-16; Psalm 146:7, 8-9, 9-10; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44.
We are presented with two widows this week, two women who in the eyes of the world had nothing, yet in the eyes of God were blessed in a measure beyond man’s estimation.
The prophet Elijah is led by God to the woman in the first reading. Disgusted with the idolatry of the tribes to the north, who have hardened themselves against his repeated warnings, Elijah calls down a drought, a reflection of the sterility of their hearts. The widow in Zarephath is not a Jew, yet she, too, is suffering from near-starvation.
Elijah asks her to share with him the handful of food she has, the last bit she plans to consume with her son before they succumb to death.
“Do not be afraid,” he assures her. She trusts him and the promises he makes in the name of the God of Israel, and she is rewarded with flour and oil for a year — a miracle in the midst of famine.
In the Gospel, Jesus watches another widow place her last two coins into the temple treasury, offering all she had, and points out to the disciples her faith. He also warns his friends, who will someday be religious leaders themselves, not to be like the vain and self-seeking scribes who “devour the houses of widows.”
In stark contrast, the disciples will be asked to be leaders who will lay down their lives in service and to give all they have, too, for the sake of the Kingdom.
There is another widow who Jesus may have been thinking of, who surely was never far from his thoughts: his mother.
A poor widow, too, Mary may not have even had two coins. But she had a Son whom she loved with everything she had. When she was asked to surrender him, there was no hesitation. He could not be contained. He was for the world, and she opened her heart and released him.
From the moment at Cana, when, at her request, he began his “hour,” she watched him walk closer and closer to his death, and she followed unhesitatingly, giving him away day by day. Finally, at the cross, they both spilled themselves out for the salvation of the world, holding nothing back. And in the empty space Mary’s continuous “Yes” carved out in her heart, we, the faithful, flooded in with her silent assent to his anguished words, “Behold your son.”
This time, the reward was the world’s. Even her recompense was not for her — it was for us. Her generosity won us his own mother.
This is a treasure beyond all telling, a prize to claim despite all our unworthiness. This is heavenly wealth spilled into the treasury of our souls. She is the first fruit of God’s love, and in astonishing grace, he gives her to us.
Notice that Elijah’s words to the widow are echoed by the angel to Joseph, “Do not be afraid to take Mary into your home” (Matthew 1:20); and so we, too, should receive this immense gift with gratitude and imitate her without fear. Like the widows, like the disciples, like Jesus and Mary, we are asked for complete detachment from the world and to be ready to give away all we have, even in our poverty. And because we have a God who has done this for us, we know we can trust him to provide for all we need. Do not be afraid.
Claire Dwyer blogs about saints, spirituality and the sacred every day at EventheSparrow.com and contributes regularly to WomenofGrace.com, CatholicMom.com and EndowGroups.org. She is editor of SpiritualDirection.com and coordinates adult faith formation at her parish in Phoenix, where she lives with her husband and their six children.