Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in this Sunday’s Scripture readings we are reminded that as Christians, in following God, we must always be generous in giving, and not to be stingy or greedy, in keeping all that we have to ourselves. This is shown through the reading taken from the story of the prophet Elijah and the widow of Zarephath, the passage from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews relating to us the loving sacrifice of Christ, and finally the story of the giving of the old woman who gave two copper coins to the Temple in our Gospel passage today.
First of all, the story of the prophet Elijah and the faithful widow of Zarephath happened at the time when the whole of Israel and the region was suffering from a great drought and famine, where rain did not fall for several years. Without rain the crops could not grow, and hence man and cattle alike suffered in great hunger. And this came about because of the great sins which the people of Israel and their king had committed before God.
The king of Israel at that time, king Ahab, was notorious among the many other kings of Israel, then ruling only the northern half of the divided kingdom of David and Solomon. Many of the kings of the northern kingdom were wicked in their actions and lives, and did not obey God as they should have done. As a result they led the people to sin, and king Ahab was noted as the one who was particularly wicked, especially due to the influence of his queen, Jezebel.
King Ahab further spread the worship of the pagan gods such as Baal, Asherah and many other Canaanite gods that the Israelites were exposed to from their neighbours. And the king also persecuted the faithful and those whom God sent to help save His people, that is the prophets. He also persecuted the prophet Elijah, who had to flee the persecution for the king and his forces were after his life.
As the sign of divine displeasure at the wickedness which all of Israel at that time, the prophet Elijah showed a sign, by which there was to be no rain throughout the land for three years, for the sins committed by Israel and its king. And it was in this state of the land in drought and famine that the interaction between the prophet Elijah and the widow of the city of Zarephath took place.
Zarephath itself was a small town in Sidon, in the land which was not considered as part of the land of Israel. It was the land of the Phoenicians, and likely that widow was not an Israelite. At that time, a non-Israelite person was usually considered as a pagan, as unbelievers who did not believe in God. They were often looked at with disdain and dismissed as unworthy by the Israelites who took pride in their status as the chosen race and people of God.
Interestingly, this is parallel to what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, regarding the moment when the Lord Jesus and His disciples were ar the Temple of God, and saw how an old woman placed a mere two pieces of copper coins, which had a very small value at that time, as compared to the rich people, who put in a lot of offerings and rich gifts to the Temple of God. And consequently, people must have paid attention to what those rich men had been doing, and ignored or even looked down on the old woman who gave so little in comparison.
And yet, we see in both circumstances, we see how those who were proud and filled with ego, faltered in the end, and compared to the ones who were looked down upon, ostracised, marginalised and discredited against, the latter ones were the ones who were in truth, truly faithful to the Lord. They put their faith and trust in the Lord and gave generously from whatever it was that they had, even those that they needed for themselves to survive on.
Surely as was in the case of the widow of Zarephath, she did have and show her reservations, and she was indeed afraid that she did not even have enough for herself and for her son to eat one last meal, when the prophet Elijah asked her for some flour and oil to make him a bread to eat. But in the end, she chose to trust in God and in the words of the prophet Elijah. She took the flour and oil and obeyed God even if that meant taking something from what she could have made for herself and her son one last meal.
Like the poor old woman in the Temple, the widow of Zarephath chose to trust in God wholeheartedly and gave even from her poverty. For the widow of Zarephath, she gave whatever food she could provide for the sustenance of God’s servant, Elijah, and for the old woman in the Temple, she gave everything that she could give, possibly most of her wage and possessions, for the Lord.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, have we been touched by the examples of these courageous women, who were counted among those who were always maltreated, ignored and ostracised from within our own communities? And ultimately, the best of all, as mentioned in the Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews, the Jewish Christians, that the Lord Himself has given everything, in ultimate obedience to His Father.
How is that so? Through the suffering that Our Lord Jesus Christ willingly endured for our salvation, He has placed Himself in complete trust to the will of His Father, despite the enormous and unimaginable sufferings and pains that He had to endure for our sake. Ultimately His even more unimaginably great love for each and every one of us is the reason why He was ready to take up the burden of the cross.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore do the same with ourselves, and learn to put our trust in God, by not fearing to give and share what we have for the greater glory of God, by sharing these blessings we have, in loving our fellow men and caring for those who are needy. If we do this, and if we have love for our fellow men, then we are doing what Christ Himself had done, and in doing so, we obey the Lord and love Him in the best way possible, remembering His own words, “that whatever you have done for the least among you, you have done it unto Me.”
Let us all therefore learn to love God with a new zeal and effort from now on. Let us turn to Him with our whole heart, imitating the great faith and dedication that the widow of Zarephath and the old woman in the Temple had shown us. Let us remember, that if we give it all to the Lord, and not worrying about the various concerns we may have over giving of ourselves to God, the Lord Himself will provide for us, as He did with the widow of Zarephath.
May the Lord bless us always, and may He continue to guide us in our path at all times. May He remain by our side, strengthening us and keeping us in His loving embrace, each and every moments of our lives. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.