1 Kings 17: 10-16Hebrews 8: 24-28Mark 12: 38-44
Today we hear different accounts about widows. In themselves, these accounts offer to us examples of individuals whose actions we can seek to imitate. Both women are clearly destitute. But they willingly give of themselves from what little they had. The widow from Zerephath extended hospitality to a stranger. The widow at the Temple offered what little she had to benefit the ministry of the Temple. These examples are obvious sources of comment and reflection. But I have chosen to look at these examples in a little different way. They offer to us not simply the idea of imitating their actions or their behavior, but the consideration that we can recognize that in their lives they reveal God and, importantly, an understanding of God.
Jesus commends the woman at the Temple for quietly giving from the last that she had. She did this in a way that she did not receive the recognition that so many others both craved and then made a point of being acknowledged. What we can realize is that the woman’s total generosity also describes God’s total generosity towards us and towards our world that is particularly embodied in and exemplified by Jesus Christ. It is a total generosity that is to be continued in us as the Body of Christ in the world, as the Church in our world. So often we count the cost of what we might do. So often we look for some return, some recognition, some recompense. The widow received none of that. How often does it happen that the continual generosity of God’s love receives a fitting return or appreciation from us? Quite frequently it is just the opposite. Nonetheless, the totality of God’s love does not cease. We can count on God’s presence with us at all times, as we can count on God’s presence with us now in the Eucharist.
The account of the widow of Zerephath is even more striking. She is a foreigner. A stranger comes to her and asks her to share the very last of what she has. She gives of it freely and willingly. The return to her is a continuous supply, a continuous presence. Freely and willingly God gives life and the many benefits of life to us, even when we might be estranged from God for any reason, even despite the frequent ingratitude or rejection we show in our failure and sin. What is our proper response? It is to accept this generosity and to allow it to sustain us in life. In addition, we are to reflect that same persistent generosity in our own lives and actions.
The widows about whom we heard today can be seen as much more than simple examples in themselves. They are genuine reflections of God’s actions on our behalf. As good examples as the widows might be in their own actions, so much more ought we to see them as sources of insight into God’s loving kindness and generosity toward us. We are also to realize that each of us, in some way or another, can reflect and reveal the generosity of God. We are to reflect, not grudgingly, not looking for recompense or return, but gratefully and freely making known our faith and our trust in our good and gracious God.