I wonder if it might be good to consider the two different widows we find in today’s first reading and gospel. In doing so, we’ll consider the activity of both the widows and of Godâ€¦and find a possible pattern for us to follow.
- Both widows are destituteâ€¦like all widows in ancient societies. They have no one to care for them, no one to protect them, no one to house themâ€¦basically, outcasts: unloved, unwanted, completely disconnected from husband and community. In fact, from the first half of our gospel, we hear of a new abuse overtaking widows of Jesus’ time: some scribes devouring widow’s homes, perhaps living in their homes and acting as their guardians, under the pretense of piety, all the while supporting their aberrant tastes for wealth and powerâ€¦a further denigration of the helpless and the lonely.
- Elijah approaches one widow, and even upon hearing of her plight in a year-long drought, he still asks her to bring him water and the little food she has left. And she does! Amazing isn’t it? But why does she do so? She is placing all of her trustand her livelihoodin the promise given by the Lord, the God of Israel, to keep her jug of oil and jar of flour filled until He sends rain upon the earth. And God remains faithful to His promise and the widow and her son are kept close to Elijah, close to the Lord always.
- The widow in today’s gospel approached to give her last two, small coins to the temple treasury. I would propose that it took great courage and humility on her part: keep in mind that so many who were giving were rich (we know this because of Mark’s comments: “Jesus sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums.” And so, presumably, made sure that they were seen by all, flaunted and witnessed). Humble because of her poverty, courageous because of her trust: this woman now approaches and is seen by Jesus as giving the little she has left for the works of the temple, God’s house. And Jesus raises her up in the sight of the disciples: she is praised for her extreme generosity and humble trust when she reaches out for relationship with the Lord, the God of Israel.
In both stories, we witness widows who have no reason to trust in a God that they cannot see, yet they trust him anyway. They have found that their faith, as nascent as it is, inspires trust and imparts hope; their hope bestows a generous love that is then returned to them by a manifold grace. Yes, in trusting and sharing as they do, God can then bless them abundantly.
In our own time, as so many financial fears press upon us: the fiscal cliff, growing financial uncertainty, poor national employment stats, and so on, remember how God made promises to these two widows of old. And because they trusted and put their faith in Him, He was then able to keep His promise and bless them in return. You see, ultimately, fear is useless, what is needed is trust. Let each of us find new ways to place our trust in God, filled with the confidence that is borne from our faith: that God will always and everywhere, provide.