Sunday Sermon for November 7, 2021, the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Readings: 1 Ki 17:10-16; Heb 9:24-28; Mk 12:38-44

In all three readings today we hear about trust and generosity.  We see the heroic generosity of the widow who is willing to give the last of her bread to Elijah.  She had already stated that when she and her son ate what remained they would die.  Even with this, she was willing to give the little she had to Elijah rather than keeping it for herself and her son.  In the Gospel we see the same kind of generosity in the poor widow who put two small coins into the Temple treasury.  The coins did not amount to much, but they were all she had.  Once again, we see the same pattern: she gave what she had to God and did not keep it for herself.

In each of these examples, the women involved took the risk of dying because of their generosity.  However, in the second reading we hear about our Lord entering into the Holy of Holies in Heaven.  In Jerusalem, the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies only once each year, bringing with him the blood of the bull and the goat that were sacrificed for the sins of the people.  Jesus, however, enters into the true Holy of Holies as our High Priest.  He brings with Him the Blood that was shed for our sins, but it is not the blood of bulls or goats, but His own Blood. 

Unlike the heroic women we have already seen, Jesus did not risk dying by His generosity.  Rather, in His great generosity, He died and His Blood is the offering for our sins.  The women gave everything they had to sustain them; our Lord gave His entire self, even His own life.  Each of these three offered what they had to God.  It shows that God was more important to them than anything in this world, including their own lives.

The woman in the Gospel is quite amazing because she has almost nothing to her name, but she gives even the little she had.  As our Lord pointed out about her, the wealthy tend to give from their surplus wealth; she gave everything she had.  The woman in the first reading is even more astounding in that she was not Jewish.  It is one thing for a Jewish woman to put her faith in God and be generous with Him, but for a pagan woman to put her faith in the Lord and be generous with Him is even more astonishing.  But we see her faith both in her statement to Elijah: “As the Lord your God lives,” and also in her response when Elijah tells her “the Lord, the God of Israel says.”  She did not invoke the pagan gods, nor did she reject what Elijah told her was from the Lord.

We see in both of these women the profound trust they had in the Lord.  The woman from Zarephath had to trust the Lord would provide for her and her son if she gave the final bit of food she possessed to the Prophet of the Lord.  Elijah told her what God said, but it sounds like nonsense: how could the flour and oil continue when it was being used up?  She had to trust what Elijah said, and she had to trust the Lord would bless her generosity.  We are told that the woman, her son, and Elijah all ate for a year from the supply of flour and oil that was going to run out on the day Elijah arrived at Zarephath. 

If we wonder why Elijah was sent to this woman, we must remember our Lord’s teaching that there were many widows in Israel, but Elijah was not sent to them.  In other words, there was no one among the Jewish people who had the kind of faith, trust, and generosity that this pagan woman exhibited. 

Now it is our turn.  We must first believe in the Lord and in His love for us.  We must also have the greatest trust in the offering our Lord made on our behalf, that is, the offering of His own life, of His Precious Blood, so we could live.  We need to put our focus on Heaven, not on the things of earth.  Our Lord’s generosity needs to be reciprocated, not because He is looking for anything in return (He is not), but because our gratitude leads us to be generous with Him as He is generous with us.  If we are generous with the Lord, perhaps He will give us the chance, like those we see in the readings today, to prove our faith, trust, and generosity.  Jesus is the pattern for us: He gives all to His Father by giving all to us, and receives from God new and eternal life in Heaven.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.

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