32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 7 November 2021 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: I Kings 17:10-16; Responsorial: Psalm 146; II: Hebrews 9: 24-28; Gospel: Mark 12: 38-44
The Christian year is drawing to a close. As we approach the Feast of Christ the king in two weeks and then the joyful hope of Advent we see the Spirit of God helping us to focus our hearts on that which will enable us to better know and experience the power and Presence of our Lord and Savior. The readings from holy Scripture this week share lessons on the freedom God longs for us all to know to trust and love our God, regardless of our circumstances or what we may feel is our worth. We have rich lessons on the freedom to give and forgive.
The Old Testament shares the beautiful story of the Widow of Zarepheth. The prophet Elijah has proclaimed God’s chastisements upon the people of Israel for their rebellion and idolatry. They had become a people obsessed with themselves and their presumed abilities and worth. Most had grown distant or dead in their love and faith in God. God, in His mercy, had allowed drought to afflict the land for three years and the accompanying famine was being felt with suffering and pain. Our story finds the prophet on the coastland, in what is now Syria, in the town of Zarepheth. Elijah is hungry and sees a widow-woman of the town gathering sticks. He asks her to fix him a meal. She explains that she has just enough flour and oil to fix one last meal for her son and herself before they die of hunger. The prophet tells her to fix his portion and promises she will never run out of food. The widow trusts gives from her poverty, and never lacks again. It is indeed a powerful lesson of someone who knew the freedom to give. But as we look to the back story we find this account even more amazing. The woman is not Jewish but a Gentile. She wasn’t even the intended target of god’s chastisement. But she suffered anyway in a tragic example of the impact of sin on our environment of souls and creation. In what is essentially a miracle this widow was not only free to give of her meager sustenance but she also was free to give her forgiveness to God and to God’s prophet for the suffering that she had to endure. She chose, not to play the victim but to simply live as faithfully and generously as life allowed.
Our Gospel shares the story of another poor widow. Jesus has gone to the Temple in Jerusalem. He has been observing the wealthy religious leaders giving of their offerings into the Temple treasury. Jesus makes note of their wealthy attire, their honors and greetings, and their rich, lengthy liturgical practices. Then Jesus observes a widow, clearly poor, as she drops her two small coins into the offering. Christ goes on to proclaim how she has been the one truly generous as she gave all she had, from her poverty. Once again we see the lesson from the Old Testament replicated. This poor widow chose, not to play the victim nor to blame God or others for her circumstances. She, instead chose the freedom to give, all she had, in the simplicity of faith and love for her God.
The first reading and the gospel are shared with the words from the Book of Hebrews that express the holy gift of our High Priest, Jesus. It explains His sacrifice on the cross, His death and resurrection, brings to humanity the redemption, the freedom of forgiveness from our sins. This one sacrifice forever perpetuated in the Eucharist is the power by which grace of forgiveness is shared, in and through His followers.
We are reminded from these lessons of God’s design and longing for our lives to be channels through which flow His life-giving, living waters.
Creation gives us powerful illustrations of the truths we share today from Scripture. But the illustrations lack one key element. Creation is at the whim and care (or lack thereof) of humanity. We, humans, are free to choose. We may choose the cleansing flow of mercy and forgiveness or we may choose to become wealthy in the stagnant poisons of bitterness and blame. We are free to give of our wealth and our poverty for the good of others and the glory of God. Or we are free to choose to hoard and withhold from others the things of life, love, and the hope that they may need.
Let us remember and live, with growing freedom and generosity, as God’s people who know Jesus reigns.