Readings for Sunday, Nov. 11
Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kings 17:10-16; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44
The Scripture readings draw a sharp contrast between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots. The prophets of the Old Testament were continually railing against the people for the injustices perpetrated against the poor and widowed by the rich and powerful. In the reading from Kings we see the prophet Elijah moved with compassion for this widow, promising her food to last awhile. However, she needed to trust in his word as he was asking her to give him a share of their last bit of food. Do we have that level of trust in God? It’s asking a lot to share your final bites of food.
For most of us I don’t think God has ever asked us to trust him in a situation quite that serious. And yet we struggle to trust God in even the small dimensions of our lives.
The poor widow in Mark’s gospel contributed her whole livelihood to the collection. The word for “widow” in Hebrew carries the meaning of one who is silent. In the Mediterrean culture of their day, men played the public role, and women were not allowed to speak on their own behalf. Also widows were not included in Hebrew inheritance laws, so their constant concern was simply living from day to day. Times have not changed; we still have the rich and powerful keeping the poor as the underdog and forcing them to live day to day. Keeping the power out of the hands of the poor will ensure that the laws and guidelines of society will lean towards the interest of the rich.
The Mediterrean cultural obligation upon everybody was to maintain one’s status and do nothing to jeopardize or lessen it. If, as Jesus observes, this woman has given to the Temple, “all she had to live on,” she has deliberately worsened her status. Jesus does not praise but rather laments this woman’s behavior. She has been taught “sacrificial giving” by her religious leaders who promised to redistribute Temple collections to the needy.
In actuality, they spent the funds on banquets and unnecessary adornments. Does this sound familiar?
One problem in our American mode of thinking is that we expect everyone to be self-sufficient. This is not always in line with Gospel teaching. Jesus tells us not to worry about material things, or food to eat. Now, we must use some common sense and not sit on the beach all day waiting to be fed and clothed, the bottom line is trust in God. Something that we all must willingly practice and it does take practice. If we can’t trust God in little ways, how are we ever going to handle to critical situations that come our way in life?
The economic situation in our country today is worse that many of us can remember. If the majority of us felt financial pressure these past few years, how are the poor faring? We are a covenant community, the Body of Christ, created and brought together by God to live in community with each other in all ways. Do we need to be like the widow and empty our wallets for charity? Of course not.
Perhaps these readings today can help us focus on where we can help others a little more than we are now doing. We also need to be mindful of our global responsibility to the poor; it’s not their problem, it is ours.
Kathleen Ebner is a member of St. Jude the Apostle Parish in Lewes, where she serves as a spiritual director and catechist.