Fr. Gerard D’Souza
32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
When we have nothing, only then can God’s plenty give through us. My brothers and sisters, this is one Biblical principal we should never forget. This is the inner meaning of the tale of two widows today. I’d would like to focus on the first widow. In the reading from the book of Kings, the star of the show is a woman. A woman. It’s important to remember the status of women in the ancient world. This is key to the story. The Bible has picked out a woman and not a man for a reason. The independent woman did not exist in ancient society. She was totally dependent on her husband. A woman was disadvantaged at her very birth. Not only was she was woman, but she was a widow. Now a widow could not inherit from her husband and what is worse, she was the inheritance of her eldest son, she became, to put it crudely, his baggage. In this story however, the son himself is young and totally dependent on her. In short this poor woman is totally without any security whatsoever. But the Bible will not stop here. This destitute widow is living in the hardest of times – in a time of famine. And what is worse, she had enough flour in her jar and enough oil in her jug to prepare the last meal she and her son would ever eat before they died of starvation. The stage is set. She is at the lowest of low points. And then God meets her in the person of the prophet.
This is where we usually get it wrong. We think – God has arrived, tt’s going to be alright. But this is not God’s way. God has never promised to be nice.
‘Please bring a small cupful of water and oh, yes, while you are at it, get me some bread. She tells Elijah there is just enough for son and herself. What does Elijah do? First make me a little cake and bring it to me. Then you eat. He takes everything from her, every last thing. And what does he give her – a promise only. The only problem is you cannot eat a promise. You can eat your bread and yes, you can hoard it. The widow could have said – You can say keep your promises, I’ll hold on to my bread. But she did not – and then miracle happened – she was able to eat for a year – the jar of flour did not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry. When we have nothing, only then can the God’s plenty give through us. It was as if the jar of flour and the jug of oil could never be filled unless, unless she had given away her last security.
This story is not meant to be just another nice story in the Bible. It bears your name. Do you believe that God is enough for you? And if you believe, how do you act? Do you hoard time and money and your charity? Are you always hedging your bets? Creating security blankets, looking for the escape hatch in every situation of commitment and sacrifice. Are you always poised on the brink of sacrifice and never get there. Never putting out into deep waters but playing in the shallow end of life’s pool. This is not the way to happiness as the Bible spells it out. It is the way of misery.
We usually blame God but have we really trusted Him? Chesterton said and I paraphrase – it is not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting; it is has been found difficult and not been tried. None of us likes the way of emptiness or powerlessness. We run from it. We are pagans at heart. The pagan is always looking for power even in spirituality. How can I manipulate God to get some of His power? But the Bible turns power on its head. God is not a hoarder. He is waiting to give us everything but we are full of ourselves. When we have nothing, only then can God’s plenty give through us. Look at Jesus on the Cross. He was utterly powerless then and it was then that He saved the world. And if we follow Him, at some point the invitation is going to come to us, to surrender our claims to power and our small securities and let go. The choice is always ours at every moment – for the invitation is always coming to us, even right now, at this very moment – we can hoard our bread or we can give it away and cling to the promise of God’s plenty. When we have nothing, only then can God’s plenty give through us.