Today’s readings can be a little unnerving. In the First reading from the 1st Book of Kings we witness Elijah asking a widow to give the last food she has. She has already accepted her, and her son’s fate of starvation. God, it seems has left her alone; He is not helping her, they are abandoned. In the Gospel today Christ points to a poor widow who gives up all the money she has. She is in the same state as the widow with Elijah. This is very contrary to the societal mentality of self-preservation. Living for today not worrying about tomorrow is just bad advice in the eyes of most – today and yesterday. Yes, today’s readings can be unnerving.
However, the common theme in both readings, explicit in the first reading and implicit in the Gospel is that we need to have total faith – it will suffice. The widow who Elijah meets obviously has faith in God – ‘As the Lord your God lives,’ she says; meaning as ‘God is my witness’ – she believes. Elijah replies with ‘Fear not;’ meaning ‘keep hold of your faith’. He tells her that if she trusts in God, God will not abandon her. In the Gospel Christ compares the rich and the poor woman and approves of her, not them; she is doing right in the eyes of God – her faith will save her. And this is true. The main point in today’s reading is that – faith in God. Not only a faith in words; but also putting our faith in action.
But today I was struck with a secondary point in these two readings, which is just as important; this faith is in a God who never leaves us. ‘And she went and did as Elijah said; and she, and he, and her household ate for many days.’ we hear in the first reading. She does what is asked of her by God’s prophet Elijah, and as a result ‘she, and he, and her household ate for many days’ He – Elijah doesn’t leave her. And of course it is God Himself pointing out the sacrifice of the poor women to the disciples. This God would continue on and not only offer Himself for each of us but would make sure that we are participants in His supreme act in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. He never leaves.
Brothers and sisters, we need to remember every time we are tempted to doubt our faith, when we are afraid to act on our faith; that we are never alone, abandoned by He who are faith is based on. He is always with us. We can hold our hearts still with the confidence that, come what may, He is right there. He is our most intimate advocate, as the author of the letter to the Hebrews writes in today’s second reading.
With these thoughts in mind today’s Collect explodes with additional import:
‘Almighty and merciful God,
graciously keep from us all adversity,
so that, unhindered in mind and body alike,
we may pursue in freedom of heart
the things that are yours.’