November 6, 2015

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe First Book of Kings furnishes this weekend with its first reading from the Scriptures.

Political governance, in the minds of the ancient Hebrews, was not the chief function of their kings. Rather, assuring the nation’s faithfulness to God and to the law of God given through Moses was their primary responsibility. Nothing was more important than the people’s fidelity to God.

Since this religious function was so vital, prophets were important. Not surprisingly, many stories in the Books of Kings also give great attention to the prophets.

Such is the case this weekend. The central figure in this story is Elijah, the prophet. In the story, Elijah appears at the gate of a city and encounters a woman collecting twigs and branches to use as firewood.

She obviously is quite poor. First, she must forage for fuel, although this was not uncommon. Secondly, she told the prophet when he asked for food that she had only a handful of flour and a little oil. She also told him that she had to feed her son. The impression left is that she was a widow and her son was a child.

In fact, she was so poor that she told Elijah that after she and her son consumed whatever she could bake using the meager amount of flour and oil on hand, she and the son would die. They had nothing else.

Elijah told her that she and the son would not die. He said that if she fed him then God would provide. The story ended by saying that by sharing with the prophet, the woman’s flour and oil never ran out.

For its second reading, the Church this weekend gives us a passage from the Epistle to the Hebrews. Scholars do not know precisely who was the author of this epistle. Regardless of identity or personal circumstances, the author was a skillful writer who knew well the history and traditions of Judaism.

Building upon Jewish themes, the author writes about Jesus in the most soaring language.

The reading declares that God has ordained that all people must die, but God also has ordained that all may live if they turn to Jesus. This is possible because of the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary, and because of the reality of Jesus as a human and as the Son of God in the mystery called the Incarnation.

St. Mark’s Gospel offers us the last reading. It is a familiar story, appearing also in Luke, but not in Matthew.

The message is clear. The poor widow who gave a small donation to the temple, but great for her in her poverty is the paragon of love for God and trust in God. Jesus spoke of her as such.

Her example is a testament of absolute faith.

Reflection

The widow’s mite, read in this selection from Mark, is often used either to urge generosity in giving to worthy causes, or to define the motive for giving to the Church or to another activity for a noble cause.

While these interpretations are correct, the lesson is not just about money and about being generous. It also is about trusting God and about priorities in Christian living. We must trust in God despite the false warnings and contrary directions sent us by the world, the flesh and the devil.

Being generous with God also means being generous in trusting God. It is much easier to donate to the Church or to charity, if we are so able, than to dismiss the conventions of our culture or our own instincts.

We should trust in God and allow nothing to distract us from our Christian duty. Eternal life awaits those who truly follow Jesus. †

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