Homily for thirty-second Sunday B
The widows and the orphans are no doubt special to God. He said he is the father to the fatherless and the defender of widows (Psalm 68:5). Also in Isaiah 1:17, he calls us to defend the fatherless and plead for widows. They are indeed special to God if they in faith accept God as their defender and provider.
In our first reading this morning, we meet the prophet Elijah and the widow at the city gate of Sidon. The widow was gathering sticks obviously to be used as fire wood, and Elijah asked her for a drink. Without complaining the widow set off to get some water for the prophet when he called her back to request for something else; bread.
From all indication it was a time of hardship, famine and dryness. The widow had no bread, no food. So, when the prophet asked the widow for food, she replied; I have no baked bread, but only a handful of meal in a jar and a little oil in a jug; I am just gathering a stick or two to go and prepare this for myself and my son to eat, and then we shall die. There was nothing else in the house, and there was no hope of getting any help. The widow and her son were convinced that death was imminent, they were going to starve to death. But the prophet Elijah said to her, Do not be afraid, go and do as you have said; but first make a little scone of it for me and bring it to me, and then make some for yourself and for your son. For thus the Lord speaks, the God of Israel: “jar of meal shall not be spent, jug of oil shall not be emptied, before the day when the Lord sends rain on the face of the earth.
The widow did as the prophet had said, she made some food for the prophet, herself and her son. They had enough, yet the jar of meal was not spent nor the jug of oil emptied. Miracle! Just like the five loaves and two fish that were eaten by five thousand men, yet the basket was not emptied. The miracle working God is still alive, he is on the throne and he is the same yesterday, today and forever.
You must have listened to so many homilies on this passage of the scriptures, and I will not be surprise if you tell me that most of those homilies focused on generosity, giving. Yes; it is about it but not just about it. It is unfortunate that most times we take one side of this passage and emphasize it so much so that the other side is completely ignored. People hardly talk about the other side of this passage. Let’s go back to the story again and look at it critically.
The prophet Elijah met this widow when he reached the city gate of Sidon, and it was a time of scarcity, hardship, famine. The land was dried, no rain. Elijah met this widow gathering sticks like every other poor person, she was not expensively dressed to prove that she was rich. She was a widow ready to die of poverty. She obviously needed help; so, everyone would have expected the prophet to give something to the widow, but it turned out to be the other way round. The prophet begged from the widow and the widow did not refuse the prophet his request, she gave the prophet food and drink in the midst of scarcity. And that is the problem with so many people today; they always feel they should be given. If they don’t get from you they become very angry, but they never see themselves to be in the position to give, no matter how small. They seem to forget that it was in giving that this poor widow was blessed. What she gave did not matter, what really matters is that even in her poor condition, she still saw herself as one who could give. Giving is not met for a particular group of people, it has no season, it is done in times of scarcity and in times of plenty. Both the rich and the poor are called to be generous in their own capacities. It is therefore not right for some persons to continually feel they are to be given because they cant give. We all have one or two things to give.
This particular widow was poor, but she was able to give in her own little way. What gave her the courage to give even in the midst of scarcity, when she knew she had nothing apart from a handful of meal? She was able to give because the prophet told her what the God of Israel says; that the Jar of meal shall not be spent neither will the jug of oil be emptied. The widow held onto what the word of God says, that the Jar of meal shall not be spent and the Jug of oil shall not be emptied. She was able to give because of her faith in the word of God. Her faith, her trust in the word of God is often ignored by so many people and selfishly emphasize her generosity. Any generosity that is not faith based is wastefulness. When you give just to show off or only when you have more than enough, then something is wrong with that generosity. And when you are generous with what does not belong to you, that generosity is questionable. True generosity is sincere, not boastful, it is not wasteful and it is not foolish. It is a quiet and spiritual investment in faith. Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back Lk. 6:38.
Our standard for measuring what we give is completely different from God’s standard. In our gospel reading this morning, Jesus praised a widow who gave just two small coins. She gave just two coins, yet the Lord says she gave more than every other person because she gave from her heart, in faith. She gave everything she had to live on, she was left with nothing but herself in God’s hands. God may not expect us to give all we have to live on, but in whatever way we want to be generous, let it bring us closer to God. The receiver may be ungrateful, the receiver may lash you with his or her tongue but don’t give up. Its all for God.
Let’s learn to give and not count the cost.