My friends, so often the lessons coming from the weekly Scriptures are “simple” ones—lessons that challenge us about becoming, who each of us is intended to be, at our best. When life becomes discouraging and even frustrating, it is often because humans, rather than choosing to be their best, choose the lowest common denominator that allows them to go through life, rather unscathed.
But, let’s leave that for a bit and look for the lessons in today’s Scriptures. From the Old Testament prophet, Elijah and the New Testament prophet, our brother, Jesus, we are treated to the stories of two women who ultimately, choose to, “give their best” and as a result, the best comes back to them—at least for the woman in the Old Testament reading from Kings. The woman the Jesus lifts up for us to consider; we don’t know what ultimately happens to her, but we can assume that her goodness, her largeness of heart is repaid with good, going forward.
So, let’s look closer at these two women and try to understand the totality of the gift that each gives. In each case we see that these women are living, “on the edge.” The woman from the Old Testament reading is a widow, caring for her son, and both are literally, starving to death. When Elijah comes into this pair’s lives and asks for, “water and bread,” the woman is about to prepare their final meal! We can understand why she hesitates a bit before giving Elijah that final meal, a stranger, rather than her son.
Ultimately, this woman and mother, gives out of her need and in order for her to do this, we have to assume that she also has a great deal of faith. She believes what Elijah tells her, sight unseen, that, “the jar of flour and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day YHWH makes it rain on the land.”
Additionally, we must remember the plight of all widowed, or otherwise single women in Elijah’s as well as in Jesus’ time. Women had basically no power, no resource if there wasn’t a man in their lives—and the children of such women were in the same straights. It says something then that, “a man” would ask so much of this poor woman. It also should tell us something when we realize how graciously Elijah rewarded, through God’s help, his most generous benefactor. And each of us must take this to heart as the Scriptures of old are for us today. Each of us is called to care in our plenty and in our need and to walk in faith, trusting that our God is watching over us.
“Caring” when in need is truly the personal story of each woman lifted up for us today. Each story is so compelling because on face value, we may not expect the reaction—the gift that each gives, “out of her need.”
Many of us are blessed with being able to give “out of our plenty,” and we should, when we have the opportunity. The idea of giving, “out of our need” is compelling because it would seem, that each of us, out of plenty, or out of need is being called, to give—to share, what we can.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but Jesus really wants us, “to get” the example of the poor woman in the Gospel story today from Mark, who gives, “out of her need,” as opposed to the “religious scholars” [who serve themselves on the gifts of others]. This should say something to us about the real, spiritual need to strive for balance with the goods of this world. That anyone, anywhere, is hungry, homeless, lonely, or afraid should weigh on our hearts so that we do our part to alleviate those needs. This is truly what it means to, “be our best.”
Because none of us can do it all, it is good to remember, in our day, that there are many ways to give: financially yes—but there is also the gift of our time, visiting a shut-in, bringing the communion of the altar, but also, in the larger sense, the “communion” that each of us, is—our smiles, our companionship with and for others.
This past February marked 10 years that our parish has participated in Home-Delivered Meals. And I would guess that we, in our three cooking groups, have been bringing monthly meals to the Catholic Worker (Bethany) House for that many years as well.
I have mentioned in our bulletin, but will again here, that we have need of two more volunteers to serve on our All Are One board beginning in January of 2022 as two people would like to step down after serving several terms. Please be in touch with me, either “out of your plenty” or “out of your need” where time is concerned, to serve in this way. It is a job that I can honestly say is more fun than work. Elijah’s words to the poor mother in today’s Scriptures might be fitting in this regard, “Don’t be afraid,” [God will cover your needs].
I have talked quite a bit today about generosity in giving—not as much about the “faith” it takes at times, like in the two women in today’s readings, trusting that the little we may be able to give, or do, will matter, and not put us in jeopardy if we do in fact move in faith, to try and help. We must look to this aspect of “faith” though, as both of today’s prophets, Elijah and Jesus seem to be calling us to such trust. It moves us beyond our own needs to see the needs of others, which often times are much greater than our own. Or as Joan Chittister says on her calendar page for November, “When we begin to see as God sees, we see far beyond ourselves.”
I believe our brother Jesus wants us to understand that whatever we can give, does matter, and when it comes, out of our need, it can truly “break open our hearts” so that we can see what is most important.
The writer to the Hebrews in today’s second reading, as in past Sundays, speaks to the surface issue of Jesus’s sacrifice of his life, “for our sins.” I would like to suggest that our brother’s sacrifice of his life was all about showing us the way to live and to love—and those with power didn’t always like how Jesus called us, “to be our best,” and perhaps that is why he had to die.
Episcopalian bishop, John Shelby Spong said it rather profoundly and I will conclude with his words:
When we strive to be our best selves, our humanity, which is really “divine” in its best sense, comes to the fore, and when that happens, we have achieved, heaven, by growing to that place that our loving God intended for us all along—giving, caring, loving, and living for ourselves and others. Amen? Amen!