by Father Mike Stubbs
Senior citizens often depend on a fixed income. They do not always have much cash available for new expenditures.
The unnamed widow in Sunday’s first reading, 1 Kgs 17:10-16, finds herself in a similar situation. As a widow, she is all alone, except for her son who depends upon her. To make matters worse, the area where she lives is suffering from drought. For an economy based on agriculture, that means that the entire economy has dried up. She is preparing to die.
Into that dire picture, the prophet Elijah enters. He promises her that if she shares with him the little that she has, God will provide for the three of them as long as the drought lasts: “For the Lord, the God of Israel, says, ‘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.’”
Notice that Elijah identifies the Lord as “the God of Israel.” Previously, the widow had referred to the Lord as “your God,” not “our God.” That is because the Lord was not her God. She was not an Israelite. She had been worshiping other gods. She did not know Elijah, an Israelite and prophet of the God of Israel.
Nonetheless, she trusts Elijah and trusts God’s promise. Her willingness to trust in God’s promise reflects the claim made in the responsorial psalm: “The fatherless and the widow he (God) sustains” (Ps 146: 9).
The widow in our reading anticipates the widow who will appear centuries later in Lk 21:1-4. “When [Jesus] looked up, he saw some wealthy people putting their offerings into the treasury and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins. He said, ‘I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest, for those others have all made offering from their regular wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.’”
Once again, it is a poor widow who shows great generosity and deep faith in God. She offers us all an example to imitate, regardless of our state in life or our financial situation. It is amazing how the poor can sometimes put us to shame by their generosity and willingness to give up the little that they have.
Perhaps because they do not have much, they can more easily recognize their dependence upon God.