The wonderful and challenging readings that have been assigned to us for November 11 are: I Kings: 17:10-16, Hebrews 9: 24-28 and Mark 12: 38-44. As happens most often in the assigned readings, the first reading and the Gospel have a connection. The Epistle is generally not linked to the other readings.
The first reading gives us the wonderful story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath. A drought has hit the land and the widow and her son have only enough food for one more meal and then they will die. Here comes Elijah and asks for some of the last food the widow has for herself and her son! On first glance it sounds like Elijah is inconsiderate to say the least. But the story ends well for the widow and her son, thanks to the faith she has placed in Elijah’s promise that she would not run out of food. She trusted and gave her last piece of bread to Elijah. She gave her all, just like the widow in the Gospel story.
We are all baptized as priests, prophets and royalty. As we live out our call to be prophets, to whom is God sending us as he did Elijah to speak a word of encouragement? “Drought” is a symbol for anyone who is in dire need of food, housing, a sense of self worth and dignity as God’s children. As we look around we will find “drought” in many places.
In Mark’s Gospel we read about the poor widow who was observed by Jesus putting all the money she had into the Temple treasury. She, much like the widow of Zarephath, was a woman of faith. Both widows show their faith in a caring God who will not overlook them.
Jesus was “teaching” that day when he observed the widow placing her last money in the collection plate of the Temple. He was teaching the disciples and all who would listen that this woman should not be in such poverty in the first place. If the leaders of the religion were not so greedy, they would have observed the poor widow and taken care of her as the scriptures command. He leveled his criticisms at the scribes, but all of us, especially those of us who are “professional” religious people need to heed the same warning.
As Jesus says so many times, “Let those who have ears to hear listen.” Are poor widows and children a statistic to you? If they are, then the criticism Jesus leveled at the scribes can be leveled at us too. Our money could not be better used than on the poor and powerless.