Experience has shown that the most generous people are not usually the wealthiest. King Ahab had married Jezebel, a foreigner who brought with her a foreign god Baal that corrupted Israel with idolatry. In response, Yahweh commissioned the prophet Elijah to predict extreme drought in Israel until God would command rain to fall. Israel was scourged with drought which naturally brought famine, and soon the prophet himself needed nourishment. So God directed him to Zarephath where he met a widow at the city gate. The prophet requested water. As the widow left to fetch this now scarce yet essential commodity, he added that he would appreciate some bread as well. The widow reviewed her already precarious situation: she had only a handful of flour left in her jar and a little oil, she had in fact been collecting sticks for firewood to make the last meal for her and her son, beyond that she saw only death. The prophet encouraged her to make the sacrifice prophesying, “the jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the Lord sends rain upon the earth.” She did as Elijah requested, and if we read beyond the text of our first reading, we find she never lacked nourishment until rain finally came.
The first reading reveals how the simplest of human needs, gestures and acts can provoke Divine attention, activity and intervention in the human realm. This story also shows how disproportionately God is willing to reward human generosity, especially towards charitable and noble causes. The widow at Zarephath fed the prophet for a day, God fed her family for years.
We find another generous widow in the Gospel proving again that one does not need abundance to be generous. Jesus was seated opposite the treasury observing the crowd carry out their religious obligation by putting money in (don’t ask me what business Jesus had with the treasury). He noticed and praised a poor widow who put in two small coins, the equivalent of a penny. Jesus had seen the wealthy depositing huge sums but did not applaud their generosity because they gave only a little from their abundance. As far as the Divine redeemer was concerned, the widow’s might attracted Divine approval and praise because, whereas the affluent’s largesse came from their abundance, the widow gave, not even “from” her livelihood, but her whole livelihood. We should learn to give even when it hurts. Sometimes too, the most valuable things we can be generous with are not the biggest currencies but in fact acts and time. God surely takes more notice of the “cost” of the gift to the generous donor than of its objective value. Let us pray today for generous hearts that are neither tired of giving nor less willing to give when it hurts. May we be generous to the Church too, not just in coin but also with our productive time and talent, and specifically to St. Benedict as we experience this trying yet exciting period of transition.
Please be kind and may God bless you.
Fr. ManassehBACK TO LIST