Today we meet two very vulnerable women. Both are widows – in their culture considered outcasts. They are on the brink – all resources are gone. The widow of Zarephath tells Elijah that she and her son will die after they eat the last of their flour and oil. Elijah tells her not to be afraid and to feed him first and then feed herself and her son. She is unwavering in her trust in this Man of God and so the three of them live for a year – one day at a time as God had promised.
She is a model of faith and hope for each of us. Have we not been on the brink in our life. In April of 1998 after weeks of abdominal radiation for uterine cancer all of my resources were depleted. I had nothing left but I clung to the words of the psalmist: “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil. For thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” You have probably had a variation of how you faced your own depletion. What act of faith brought you through that “valley of the shadow of death?”
In the Gospel reading Jesus warns the crowd and us to beware of those church leaders whose hearts are locked tightly closed to the needs of the suffering ones. If you want to see what is truly pleasing to God look at that widow giving “all she had – her very livelihood”. In comparison to the great amounts of money the wealthy gave, hers seemed as nothing and yet Jesus observes Her and is so moved by her extreme generosity and trust he must point it out to his disciples lest they miss the significance.
Who do you know that is similar to the widow? As for me, when I hear this story it is my mother whose image arises before me. My father left our family of six girls ranging in age from new born to fifteen. We had very little on which to survive. Like the widow of Zarephath Mom hardly had food to feed her children. I remember having Campbells Vegetable soup with potatoes added to it for dinner and wearing shoes with cardboard put inside to cover the holes Through all of those years Mom brought us to Church every Sunday and deposited her few coins in the collection. Jesus would have called his disciples over and said, “See that mother of six who has nothing. She has given from her poverty. Like the widow whom Jesus observed she put in all that she had and like the widow of Zarephath we all survived. These widows had hearts which were pure and a faith that was indomitable.
For all of us, whether our poverty is financial or intellectual or social or physical – when we give what we have – from the heart – it is very pleasing to God.