First Reading, Psalm and Gospel for the Sunday
First Reading: 1 Kings 17:10-16
Elijah the Prophet went off to Sidon. And when he reached the city gate, there was a widow gathering sticks; addressing her he said, ‘Please bring a little water in a vessel for me to drink.’ She was setting off to bring it when he called after her. ‘Please’ he said ‘bring me a scrap of bread in your hand.’ ‘As the Lord your God lives,’ she replied ‘I have no baked bread, but only a handful of meal in a jar and a little oil in a jug; I am just gathering a stick or two to go and prepare this for myself and my son to eat, and then we shall die.’ But Elijah said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, go and do as you have said; but first make a little scone of it for me and bring it to me, and then make some for yourself and for your son. For thus the Lord speaks, the God of Israel:
“Jar of meal shall not be spent,
jug of oil shall not be emptied,
before the day when the Lord sends
rain on the face of the earth.”’
The woman went and did as Elijah told her and they ate the food, she, himself and her son. The jar of meal was not spent nor the jug of oil emptied, just as the Lord had foretold through Elijah.
Psalm: Ps 145:7-10
Praise the Lord, my soul!
It is the Lord who keeps faith for ever,
who is just to those who are oppressed.
It is he who gives bread to the hungry,
the Lord, who sets prisoners free. R.
It is the Lord who gives sight to the blind,
who raises up those who are bowed down.
It is the Lord who loves the just,
the Lord, who protects the stranger. R.
The Lord upholds the widow and orphan
but thwarts the path of the wicked.
The Lord will reign for ever,
Zion’s God, from age to age. R.
Gospel: Mark 12:38-44
In his teaching Jesus said, ‘Beware of the scribes who like to walk about in long robes, to be greeted obsequiously in the market squares, to take the front seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets; these are the men who swallow the property of widows, while making a show of lengthy prayers. The more severe will be the sentence they receive.’
He sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the treasury, and many of the rich put in a great deal. A poor widow came and put in two small coins, the equivalent of a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury; for they have all put in money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.’
Gospel connection to the First Reading:
The Gospel widow gives her last monies; Elijah’s widow gives her last meal; the Gospel widow’s reward isn’t explicit, but implied; Elijah’s widow is rewarded with eating for a year.
Often the poor tend to be incredibly generous; they understand what deprivation and need are. We are sometimes inclined to think of the poor as only on the receiving end; they often can teach us much about giving.
A realhomilie from Fr.Kevin Walsh
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B.
GIVING TILL IT HURTS!
Dear One and All,
If you travel into the city of Sydney these days by train, you can be pretty sure that someone either at Town Hall or Central Station will ask you for some spare change. There are similar scenes around Victoria Station in London and other big cities in the world. It is ever so difficult to know who is needy, or who has adopted this ‘begging style’ as a way of life! I guess that when one is reasonably sure of the circumstances, the real test of a gift is not what it amounts to in itself, but what its loss means to the giver!
We have to give what will cost us something. This is just not giving what we can live without, but what we can’t live without, or don’t want to live without. This kind of giving hurts. But this is love in action. When the gift is as desperately needed by the giver as by the receiver – that is true giving. Then our gift becomes a sacrifice. And what a challenge, eh? Very difficult indeed.
In the Liturgy of the Word this weekend, the Old Testament passage from the 1st Book of Kings 17:10-16, situates a story which was real; in the middle of a famine, a poor widow shares the last of her food with the Prophet Elijah, and far from losing, by so doing, she is enriched. This theme links up with the Gospel story of ‘The Widow’s mighty mite!’ Mark 12:38-44. In the eyes of others, the offering of the widow was the least, but in the eyes of Christ it was the greatest.
Now let’s start digging deep into God’s Word, and once again, we must go back to the First Reading and prayerfully and reflectively pray the Reading. That might sound a bit strange, but when we are not rushed for time, this way of Reading can do wonders in our spirit, and then the invitations within God’s Word become clearer; while we are more ‘readied’ to respond.
One of the most exciting surprises in deep sea diving into God’s Word is that nothing can just be taken for granted, and then you move on. No way! If we are tempted to do that, we can miss some fantastic insights into God’s evergreen Word. So, let’s start with the Prophet’s name…we have all heard his name mentioned hundreds of times before…but do we know what the name means???? Let’s do a little test; have you ever been looking around in a Gift shop…not some $2 place, but really nice Gift ideas? Of course, we probably have all been in those places. I was in a place nearby called Cardiology, last weekend, because I was looking for a Birthday Card for my sister. Now, when you just get in the doorway of this shop, there is a huge stand like a little Merry-go-round, full of Key rings with the Christian/Given names of people. I bet that you have sometimes stopped to see what they have to say about your own name…….Hands up who has ever done that? Yes, my hand is up as well. I have seen different meanings for my name, Kevin, and sometimes I walk away scratching my head thinking, how did they come up with that? Now supposing you saw the name Elijah, would that name interest you? It certainly would for me, and I would probably knock the Key Ring stand over in trying to get to Elijah’s Key Ring. Elijah’s name in Hebrew is this….eliyyah or eliyyaku, notice that the name starts with the letters el; this is a time when you cannot let that pass by without being curious. So what does that first part of the name mean??? The short answer is that el can be either a prefix or a suffix, meaning God. Now, what about the second part of his name together with the prefix? It means ‘my god is YHWH’
Now our ancestors in faith would never write nor say the name God as such, because the name contains the person! Out of fear, meaning awe, their respect and reverence for God would automatically cause them to ‘stand back, with face covered’. There is no name for God; that is why we leave out the vowels when we write Y_HW_H (I have omitted the a and the e). The common place name referring to God would be Adonai…..which is means Lord! However, other names referring to God, for example, el shaddai, which means, God of the Mountains, God most High, or Almighty God, comes with another window of knowing, because the name has much to do with the experience of being on a high mountain; looking at the view etc…what does it do to us? It catches our breath and causes us to GAZE……..into the moment. So that holistic experience is contained in the name…Almighty God………el-shaddai. So names in Hebrew, especially referring to God, contain a human experience which is part of the description of that aspect of God. There is no name that can express the fullness of God in God’s completeness.
Let’s look at the next part of the Prophet’s name……iyyah or yyahu; this is a very tricky name because the only English translation that makes any sense is…..my God is YHWH as I have mentioned already. So therefore, we can safely say that the way Elijah, and his community put together the Book of these experiences, and the way it is written, having been sensitive to the stirrings of the Spirit at the time, means that Elijah was deeply committed to the Lord God. Moreover, he is deeply aware of the marriage contract initiated by God, which his life depends, on the ‘life’ which springs forth from the hearth or inner fireplace of God’s all powerful Word within him and his community.
Now let’s move into the details of the story, not for historical purposes, but for deep spiritual outcomes which pose an enormous challenge to Israel – to us!
Firstly, the text says that ‘Elijah went off to Sidon’…Question: What for? Was it a holiday, or a shopping spree? Absolutely no; he was urged by the Spirit to go to this place, and be the message as his name implied, and proclaim a kind of renewal among the people to return to the Lord God, and be strengthened from the ‘life’ of this ‘God who initiated the marriage Covenant with His people.
Back to the Old Testament text; when Elijah reached the city gate, he asked a woman to get him something to drink and eat. From our 21st Century perspective, this request seems a bit rude and pompous! But no, it has a very different meaning at the time this text was written. The people of the Ancient Near East were extremely hospitable people, as they are to this day. It would have been a very normal occurrence in those days…even that is a lesson for all time; it is from within normal events and interactions that God speaks to us. So, with that in mind what does he ask for? You see we must always be curious for the hidden meanings…..Elijah asks for water…… (A rich Biblical symbol for LIFE! Also, he asks for some bread! (Another rich Biblical symbol….the Manna in the desert….The Prophet Ezekiel ate a scroll of God’s Word as a symbolic action of the digesting of God’s Word which was seen as food – bread!) as a public symbolic action.
It seems that the Widow, poor as she was, in fact was rich in spirit! She quotes God’s Word back to Elijah, not as a smart remark, but as a response to God speaking through his spokesperson – Elijah. The ‘spirit filled widow’ gives not what was left over, but what she had…..an admirable response….let’s hang onto this when we prayerfully read the Gospel for this Sunday…..it is a major link or bridge between the two readings.
Finally, the widow returns, and the text says ‘the woman went and did as Elijah told her, and they ate the food, she, himself, and her son’ indicating that God’s bounty always surprises and provides for our needs, over and above what we want. (The miracle of the loaves and fishes is another fine example in the New Testament of God’s bounty, especially with its Eucharistic overtones.)
Now, at this stage a cup of Coffee might go down well…….Let’s move into the Gospel; a very challenging message for us these days.
Here we have an extraordinary contrast in spirituality; we have the Scribes presented to us as the ones who know all about God’s Law, and then we have a poor Widow living God’s Law; just like the poor lady in the first reading. But Jesus makes a very important point that our ways of being a ‘show off” are not God’s ways. The kind of exhibition that Jesus eludes too by some of the Scribes, also smacks of arrogant behavior. Well, we can safely say that the faces have changed, but the message remains the same! This kind of outward ‘showing off’ has nothing to do with God, but plenty to do with very needy and power consuming people. This kind of attitude can be like a cancer within the Christian Community; it has the latent energy to eat away at happiness and joy, in favor of being standoffish, legalistic, and unapproachable. This lived attitude as well as being desperate in calling people to order, and addressing leaders with a plethora of honorific titles, puts invisible chains on people’s legs. Conversation and delegation go right out the window! Everything must get a tick of approval from on high, or a red card is given, which is the entry ticket into the sin bin! This kind of atmosphere can be halted when the relevance of the Church, and the way it conducts itself, is called into question by ‘the poor’ of the Lord God. People like the poor lady in the first reading, and the giving to others as was the widow’s mighty mite in the Gospel, speak volumes about true and sincere adhering to and living in obedience to God’s law. (Obedience being the listening to God’s creative Word with body, mind and soul)
Sadly, I believe that when the finances run really short in the Church, there will be a concerted effort to return to the true Christian image of God’s foot washers! All the glamour as presented in and through a real lack of a sense of occasion for the Church of the “now” will only perpetuate a ghetto mentality of superior and domineering people who lack love, truth, humility, forgiveness and joy. Food for thought!!!
However it is not all doom and gloom, the ongoing story of a ‘giving attitude’ without counting the cost is repeated daily in our communities, and so often ever so quietly. The spate of natural disasters over the last couple of years brings people to their knees in seeing what is really valuable and important in life. Time and time again, these unsung heroes go on quietly and lovingly. Only two weeks ago when that dreadful Mega Typhoon ripped through Manila, it left behind a trail of misery, heartbreak and homelessness. We saw on the Television news the inspiring acts of giving and loving to others. These days it seems that one of the most costly items we possess is ‘time’. Yet, over and over again, people who do not count the cost offer their unbounded generosity of “time” to others. In our Celebration of the Eucharist this weekend, as always, our God offers us His Word and Sacrament, freely. The cost of this was pure sacrifice….”This is my body which will be given up for you…This cup is the new covenant in my blood which will be poured out for you.” Luke 22:19-20.
We give thanks to God for the tremendous generosity and sacrifice, which people freely give to one another, which is the ‘life-blood’ of our missionary Parish communities. May this good work of love, continue to mould and fashion us, into the image of Christ.
OUR FAMILY PRAYER TIME………
Leader: Bountiful God, you take care of the lowly ones and those in need. We are confident that when we speak our prayers you answer them with abundance.
1.That the Church beware of pretentiousness and eyes closed to the lowly. We pray to the Lord: Lord, graciously hear us.
2.That the leaders of the world beware of using their power for anything but the good of all. We pray to the Lord: Lord, graciously hear us.
3.That widows, orphans, and strangers be supported, protected, and received with generosity. We pray to the Lord: Lord, graciously hear us.
4.That we contribute generously from both our surplus and our poverty. We pray to the Lord: Lord, graciously hear us.
5.Let’s think back over the past week, and what we have seen on the T.V News, Breaking News on our Mobile Phones, ipads & tablets….who are some of the people in our Global village or need our prayers? You might like to share some of these…………., We pray to the Lord: Lord, graciously hear us.
Leader: O God, you hear the cries of the poor and reach out to those in need: hear these our prayers and help us always to rely on you for what we need. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.