11 November 2018 – The 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
There are two widows in the readings this week…
The first is from the story of the prophet Elijah. The Kings of Israel had turned from the Lord. They “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins which they committed, more than all their fathers had done. For they also built for themselves high places, and pillars and Ashe’rim on every high hill and under every green tree.” (1Kings 14:22-23) There were many ‘Kings’ during this period following the death of Solomon… each listed as worse than the one before.
Eli’jah is told to go to the people of Israel and prophesy of a drought. Telling the people there will be no dew or rain until he gives the command for rain to come. Eli’jah is then told to depart and hide by a brook. There he drinks from the brook and is fed by a raven who brings him bread and meat. When the brook dries up from the drought, he is told to go to Zarephath were a widow will feed him. She is the first widow we hear about. Her and he son only have enough oil and flour to feed them one more meal and then they plan on dying. Despite her limited means, she shares what she has with Eli’jah. Our reading states that the tiny amount of oil and flour provided food for the widow, her son, and Eli’jah for a year but it is 3 years before the rain comes…
God’s ways are strange to our own. The Father sent his only Son to become human. To walk and live among us as one of us. To show us how unlike our ways God’s ways are. “Christ has entered not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself” (Heb 9:24) Christ never focused/focuses on materialism. Material wealth is often a hinderance to Spiritual wealth… for when one has much within the material world, there is always concern on keeping it… or even worse, wanting still more. One might think then that all who live in poverty might then be spiritually wealthy… yet if in their poverty they lust after material wealth… they too are still quite poor. As we heard last week, it is God’s desire that we desire and love Him above all other things. The Kings of Israel at the time of Eli’jah, were more interested in building themselves up… they made priests of men who praised them and declared them as ‘of God.’ False priests.
In the Gospel we have Jesus sitting with his disciples across from the treasury at the temple… the “Church” for the Jewish people. Jesus warns his disciples: “Beware of the scribes, who like to go about in long robes, and to have salutations in the market places and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” (Mark 12:38-40)
The Scribes Christ describes were ‘false priests’ as well – more interested in building their reputation than in serving and giving true praise to God. They were outraged with Christ declared that he would tear down the temple and in three days raise it again. The Temple, the Church, is not a building – a thing made with hands – but is in actuality the mystical body of Christ. For in Christ was created the ‘new covenant’ as prophesized by Jeremiah: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” (Jeremiah 31:33-34)
God inscribes his ‘Law’ upon the hearts of his chosen. Those who are of God dwell within God and God dwells within them… a mutual indwelling of Love otherwise known as the Gift of the Holy Spirit… or ‘heaven.’ If the Holy Spirit dwells within in any measure, our hearts know what is required… however, it is much harder for our minds to accept. For the wisdom of God is not like the wisdom of man.
Upon Baptism each Christian is sealed with the Holy Spirit. It is a blessing of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Fear of the Lord – a sense of wonder and awe at God’s grandeur and perfection… the perfection of temperance; Counsel – an inner sense to judge rightly… the perfection of prudence; Understanding – ability to relate all truth to supernatural purpose… the perfection of faith; Knowledge – the ability to see things from God’s perspective… the perfection of hope; Piety – reverence, humility and trust in and love for the Lord… the perfection of religion; Fortitude – the courage and endurance to stand up for what is right, just, and moral; and Wisdom – the greatest gift which acts on both will and intellect to illuminate the mind and attract the heart to unity with the divine… the perfection of charity. Each is given at Baptism in accordance with ability and Grace. These are the first ‘talents’ given by the Master… who then goes off and watches to see what we will make of them. Our Faith allows us to receive the Gifts via Grace. It is then our turn… The worthy servant practices the virtues and allows the Gifts of the Holy Spirit to grow and multiply. Each of the Gifts are brought to full manifestation by the perfection of the related virtue… Just as the servant given 5 talents can show he now has 10 when the master returns… and the servant given 2 can show he now has 4. For the worthy servant, through the practice and work of virtue allows the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and therefore the Holy Spirit and God himself to grow with his/her Heart. The one who is unworthy, the one who hides the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and gives in to vice… The parable explains that what little was given, will be taken from one who nurtures self-preservation in fear instead of going out in trust of the Lord allowing the Gifts to grow. (cf Matthew 25:14-30)
Not only are Gifts given for our own growth in Faith but the Holy Spirit dwelling within the hearts of faithful also presents gifts for the building of unity of the community… of the Church. These are Charisms. The Gifts mentioned by Luke in Acts 2 and Paul in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians 4. There are at least 27 gifts mentioned in those passages. Each varied… prophecy, healing, mercy, teaching, almsgiving, perseverance, joy, encouragement, hospitality, leadership…
We do not choose the Gifts we are given. God choses based on our ‘talents’ – these talents of course are how the Gifts of the Holy Spirit for personal development have grown and multiplied within us based on God’s Grace and our practice of the virtues. God then calls us to act on His behalf to others. If called to prophesy like Eli’jah, we must declare that which must be spoken despite the cost… despite the reality of exile… of being banished from one’s sense of place. If called to hospitality, we must give everything just as the widow who gave the last bit of oil and flour… every night… for years.
God doesn’t want of our ‘surplus.’ God wants our WHOLE being. God wants us to give ALL of our HEART to HIM because He wants desperately to dwell within each and every heart. Not only dwell in our Hearts but to become an OUTPOURING of Him through the Charisms. Just as the widow would not be expected to prophesy, Eli’jah is not expected make the bread each day. He does however show the Gift of Healing… for when the widow’s only son dies, Eli’jah prays and the son is brought back to life. Each is expected to use the Gift given for the greater good as a Servant of God.
The second widow in the Gospel puts in two small coins. Worth a few pennies at the most… But it was everything she had and she gave it to God. This is why Jesus praises her. She gave all that she could. Yes… others gave much more but it was of something they had plenty of. If the value was instead considered one of time, I’m sure the widow could have spent hours in the temple. She likely had time to give in surplus… but what of the wealthy? How much time would they be willing to give to God? Especially if it was time only God could see and measure!! How much time do we give to God? Is God simply an afterthought for Sunday morning compensated by a donation of what we have in surplus into the basket? Or are we willing to give God our Lives and become an OUTPOURING of Him by allowing Him to use us as servants bearing the Gifts of Charisms…
1 Kings 17:10-16
Psalms 146:7, 8-9, 9-10