1st Reading – 1 Kings 17: 10 – 16
What does this story illustrate to us about the ‘true God’?
What happens to us when we think that we do not have enough to share or anything worthy of sharing? What can we learn from this widow and this story?
From Mary Birmingham, Word and Worship Workbook for Year B, 711-712:
All the ‘Elijah’ stories are written to show us who the real God truly is.
The fertility gods, especially the god, Baal, have no place before Yahweh. Elijah was in conflict with King Ahab and his pagan wife, Jezebel. Ahab had allowed his wife to bring her pagan worship of Baal with her into Israel. The prophets of Baal with Jezebel’s encouragement sought to destroy the prophets of Yahweh. Elijah had therefore informed King Ahab that a drought would come upon the land. Baal and his prophets had claimed that Baal had ultimate power over the land and natural elements like rain for crops. Yet, during this famine Baal proved powerless. Elijah had initially taken refuge near a stream where God had provided bread and meat in the morning and evening; ravens brought these ‘gifts’ to Elijah by order of Yahweh. But eventually the stream dried up. This is when Elijah is told to go to visit this widow in Zarephath of Sidon. This area was the very pagan home of Baal. Elijah trusted in God’s Word and proceeded headlong into this place of danger. When Elijah saw this woman in mourning clothes, he decided to ‘size her up’ by asking for a drink of water – a precious commodity in the desert climate at the time of famine. She responded with generosity and truthfulness which showed her openness to God’s Word in her own life. Unlike the corrupt King Ahab, this widow trusted in the God of Elijah and her needs were met.
2nd Reading – Hebrews 9: 24 – 28
How is Jesus’ sacrifice like that of the widow’s?
Jesus took pain, rejection, even death and filled it with God’s presence and love. So even the worst that life may throw at us can no longer separate us from God’s love and presence. When Jesus comes again – and He does come again and again and again – What does He bring? – a life that is eternally bursting forth!
The ‘holy of holies’ that was in the temple was referred to as being a copy of the true one, heaven itself. The sanctuary is empty and dark, covered with a veil (how different from actual heaven hopefully!). It was entered only by the high priest and then only once a year, on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). Two goats would be sacrificed as a sin offering and their blood sprinkled in the sanctuary – the scapegoats. Jesus is our scapegoat! He sacrificed himself as our sin offering, though sinless. But through him, there is life! He is our advocate…always for us. By entering into the ‘holy of holies’, he opened the way for all the redeemed to enter also. (Preaching Resources, Sanchez, 2).
From William Barclay, The Letter to the Hebrews, 109-110:
Christ did not enter into a man-made Holy Place; he entered into the very presence of God. As Christians we are to know that in Christ we also can enter into this intimate fellowship with God.
The Gospel – Mark 12: 38 – 44:
From John Kavanaugh, S.J., “The Word Encountered” http://liturgy.slu,edu. :
There are times when we are down, and we think we have nothing left to give. Little remains in the barrel of our lives. Then, for some reason, we still manage to give more out of the nothing we have left. And grace is born again. How often the mere pennies of others replenish us. It happens in that moment when someone seems to have nothing much to give us: no education, no program, no sermon, no sound advice, no solution to our problems. If they do not give up on us, but give us something else — if they give not from their surplus, but from what they have to live on — we find that they have offered their very being — their presence. their hearts . . . the very life of God growing in our faith, hope, and love.
From John Pilch, The Cultural World of Jesus, Cycle B, 160-162:
The scribes were lay theologians who were experts on the Law of Moses and scripture. Jesus hurls a scathing insult at them. Because of their position of honor, they were used to being greeted first by those who were considered ‘lower’ in honor. They loved to be given the best seats at synagogues; these seats were up on the platform facing the people. Jesus’ comment on this widow’s behavior is more a lament than praise. The Temple authorities had promised to redistribute the Temple collections to the needy. Yet, they would spend the funds on conspicuous consumption like expensive clothing and banquets. They “devoured the estates of widows.” Jesus laments this corruption. In fact, in Jesus’ culture it would be very wrong to donate to the Temple if it meant that you would be plunging deeper into poverty and thus dishonor.
From Journey of Faith, Cycle B, 115:
Here Jesus is trying to teach the crowd and his disciples. Throughout Mark’s gospel, Jesus has associated with the weak, the needy, the sick, the unclean, the tax collectors, etc. He is using this widow to again show us all that discipleship necessarily calls us to serve. Jesus’ disciples are not to exploit the poor and the powerless. They are to live the law of love that was taught in last week’s gospel. Do you think that the widow thought her ‘2-cents’ was worthless?
Neither widow gives very much. What is important about this? How can we apply these stories to our lives?