Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 7, 2021 — Year B
Readings: 1 Kgs 17:10-16 / Ps 146 / Heb 9:24-28 / Mk 12:38-44
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Two widows are featured in this Sunday’s readings. The first one is from our first reading, when the prophet Elijah asked for water and bread from a widow that he saw picking up sticks. At that time there was a great famine in that area, and only one meal was left for the widow and her son. But even in that situation, the widow did not refuse to help the starving prophet. She believed the prophet’s word that God would provide for them during this time of famine, and yet, her jar did not run out of flour and her bottle did not run out of oil until the drought was over, as Elijah had said. So, the widow in our first reading experienced that God would never neglect a person who does good.
The gospel tells us of another widow who offered two small coins in the temple treasury. To Jesus, this widow is very commendable, because she gave all she had – her life. The widow’s offering is more valuable, because she gave from her poverty, while the majority gave out of their surplus. Jesus saw the widow’s faithfulness in her offering of the temple sacrifice, something He did not see in others.
That is why, brothers and sisters, that one thing that we need to remind ourselves is that when we give, we know that the people around us will see what we give, but only God sees our heart.
This reminds me of the story of a newlywed couple who got stranded during a stormy rain, and they were stranded in a very remote place. So, unable to go farther, they got out of their car and walked towards a farmhouse. When they got to the house, an elderly couple carrying a kerosene lamp met them at the door. Explaining their predicament, the husband asked if they could spend the night with them, saying, “A place on the floor or a few easy chairs will do.” Seeing their condition, the elderly woman said, “Surely you can. We just happen to have a spare bedroom.”
So, the couple slept in the bedroom to which the woman directed them. The next morning, the newlyweds got up early and prepared to leave without disturbing the elderly couple. They dressed quietly, left some money on the dresser, and crept down the stairs. When they opened the door to the living room, they found the old couple asleep in chairs. They had given the newlyweds their only bedroom.
Brothers and sisters, this heart-warming story is an illustration of the poor widow in the gospel of this Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time. Like the poor widow, the elderly couple gave not from their surplus, but from the only resource that they had. The goodness that these two widows do is especially touching when we understand their low status in the society. In the Jewish culture, the wife had no rights of her own; she would only trust her husband. That is to say that when the husband died, the widow lost not only her husband, but the person on whom she relied.
So perhaps we may ask the question, “Why did they remain good?” Why did the two widows and the couple in the story remain good and generous to their neighbor and to the Lord in the midst of their poverty? There is no easy answer to this question. But we know there are people who are really good natured despite the difficulty of their situations.
So, the first lesson we can learn is that you do not have to be wealthy in order to give to charity or to people. The example of the poor widow illustrates this. Mother Teresa once said, “It is not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.” So rich or poor, we are called to practice charity, motivated by Christ’s teaching.
The second lesson the Lord teaches is that our giving is more meaningful and meritorious when it is accompanied by some pain and sacrifice. The rich in the gospel did not have this; they gave away only what was extra or disposable. Mother Teresa again once said, “This is the meaning of true love – to give until it hurts.”
So, brothers and sisters, our Lord reminds us today, to take time to think of people who, like the widow in the gospel, don’t have much in this life, are unknown, and are just on the sidelines. This world is full of generous and anonymous people who make this world beautiful, who make this world go around.
Let us focus more on persons, not on personalities, as we go through life. Take time today to stop and realize that there is so much goodness and Godness all around us. It pays to be good. It pays to be unknown, generous, and loving.