Renewing Families through Intercession
On Trusting God
"No Act of Goodness is without Value before God"
Dear brothers and sisters!
The Liturgy of the Word this Sunday presents us the figures of 2 widows as models of faith. They are presented in parallel: one in the first Book of Kings (17:10-16), the other in the Gospel of Mark (12:41-44). Both of these women are desperately poor and precisely in this situation demonstrate a great faith in God. The first appears in the cycle of stories about the prophet Elijah. During a famine Elijah is ordered by God to go to area near Sidon, that is, beyond Israel, into pagan territory. There he meets the widow and asks her for water to drink and a little bread. She tells him that she has only a bit of flour and a drop of oil, but, because the prophet insists and promises her that, if she listens to him, she will not lack flour and oil, she does what he asks and is recompensed. The second widow, the one in the Gospel, is observed by Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem by the treasury, where the people were taking offerings. Jesus sees this widow put 2 coins in the treasury; he then calls his disciples and explains to them that her offering is greater than those of the rich because while they gave from their excess, the widow gave “all she had to live on” (Mark 12:44).
From these 2 biblical episodes, wisely approached, we can draw a precious teaching about faith. It is about the interior attitude of those who base their lives on God, on his Word, and completely entrust themselves to him. In antiquity widows lived in a condition of grave need. For this reason in the Bible widows and orphans are people of whom God takes special care: they have lost their earthly support but God is their Husband or their Father. Nevertheless, Scripture says that the objective condition of need, in this case the fact of being a widow, is not sufficient: God always asks for our adherence in faith, which is expressed in love of him and neighbor. No one is ever so poor that he cannot give something. And in fact both of our widows today demonstrate their faith through acts of charity: the one towards the prophet and the other gives alms. In this way they attest to the inseparability of faith and charity and love of God and love of neighbor – as last Sunday’s Gospel reminded us. Pope St. Leo the Great, whose feast we celebrated yesterday, says this: “On the scales of divine justice it is not the quantity of gifts that has weight but the heart. The widow of the Gospel deposited 2 coins in the Temple treasury and this surpassed the offerings of all the rich. No act of goodness is without value before God, no act of mercy is without fruit” (Sermo de jejunio dec. mens., 90, 3).
The Virgin Mary is the perfect example of those who offer their whole self, entrusting themselves to God; with this faith she speaks her “Here I am” to the Angel and accepts the will of God. May Mary help each of us in this Year of Faith and strengthen confidence in God and in his Word.
Translation of the address Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Angelus in St. Peter's Square, VATICAN CITY, Nov. 11, 2012.
The Widows’ Faith
1 Kings 1:10-16, Psalm 146:7-10, Hebrews 9:24-28, Mark 12:28-24
We must live by the obedience of faith, a faith that shows itself in works of charity and self-giving (see Galatians 5:6). That’s the lesson of the two widows in today’s liturgy.
The widow in the First Reading isn’t even a Jew, yet she trusts in the word of Elijah and the promise of his Lord. Facing sure starvation, she gives all that she has, her last bit of food—feeding the man of God before herself and her family.
The widow in the Gospel also gives all that she has, offering her last bit of money to support the work of God’s priests in the Temple.
In their self-sacrifice, these widows embody the love that Jesus last week revealed as the heart of the Law and the Gospel. They mirror the Father’s love in giving His only Son, and Christ’s love in sacrificing himself on the cross.
Again in today’s Epistle, we hear Christ described as a new high priest and the suffering servant foretold by Isaiah. On the cross, He made sacrifice once and for all to take away our sin and bring us to salvation (see Isaiah 53:12).
And again we are called to imitate His sacrifice of love in our own lives. We will be judged, not by how much we give—for the scribes and wealthy contribute far more than the widow. Rather, we will be judged by whether our gifts reflect our livelihood, our whole beings, all our heart and soul, mind and strength.
Are we giving all that we can to the Lord—not out of a sense of forced duty, but in a spirit of generosity and love (see 2 Corinthians 9:6-7)?
Do not be afraid, the man of God tells us today. As we sing in today’s Psalm, the Lord will provide for us, as he sustains the widow.
Today, let us follow the widows’ example, doing what God asks, confident that our jars of flour will not grow empty, nor our jugs of oil run dry.