November 8, 2015 — Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
The readings for this Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time bear powerful stewardship messages for each of us. We are approaching the end of our liturgical year, which runs from the First Sunday of Advent until the Saturday after the Feast of Christ the King (November 22 this year). There can be as many as 34 Sundays in Ordinary Time. Recall that Ordinary Time does not mean “common” time. The term “ordinary” comes from the word “ordinal” which means “counted time.”
A widow plays a central part of the First Reading and of the Gospel. The lessons gained from these two widows are similar in nature; they are indeed stewardship statements. The word “widow” itself is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word widuwe which in turn finds its roots in the Latin word vidua which meant deprived or empty. Throughout Holy Scripture widows are used to represent the poor, those in poverty. The prophet Elijah (in the reading) asks the widow to provide him with water and food. She explains that she has little: “I have nothing baked; there is only a handful of flour in my jar and a little oil in my jug.” She continues to give details that this is all she has for her and her son, all that stands between them and starvation. Elijah assures her “Do not be afraid.” What the prophet is saying to her, and to us, is that if she trusts in God, all will be provided. She has great faith and trust and gives all that she had to prophet. Because of her trust, “She was able to eat for a year, and her son as well.”
The widow made a sacrifice and was justly rewarded by God. Our Second Reading from the Letter to the Hebrews addresses the idea of sacrifice as well. However, it is speaking to the total sacrifice which Jesus made for us. “But now once for all He has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by His sacrifice.” We need to be aware of Jesus’ sacrifice for us every day. It needs to be part of our daily prayers and devotions. It is this absolute sacrifice in our behalf which should provide us with the faith and trust to make our own sacrifices, our own acts of stewardship, knowing that God is with us and watching over us. It is not easy taking the risks associated with this kind of trust, but that is exactly what the Lord expects from us.
Is there a more eloquent statement about what it means to be a good steward than the chronicle of the widow included in today’s Gospel Reading from St. Mark? There is more to this week’s Gospel than the observation about the widow nonetheless. Jesus begins by cautioning us again about hypocrisy and what is truly important in our lives. The Lord points to the Scribes as examples of what not to do. Without going into great detail, suffice it to say that the Scribes came to be served, not to serve. To Jesus service is everything. If we cannot humbly serve others, we, too, suffer hypocrisy in our lives as disciples of Christ.
Jesus is observing people placing their offerings in the “treasury.” He makes it clear that He is not concerned with how much people gave, but how they gave. He sees us in the same light. The Lord is concerned with our motives and what is in our hearts. That is what He sees when the widow makes her gift of “a few cents.” We can assume that the widow had but two coins. She could have given one and saved the other for herself. Instead she gave it all in complete trust of the Lord her God. How often do we make a gift and think, “I will give more when I have more” or “This is all I can afford right now?” As difficult as it may be to accept, God expects more from us, more trust in Him, and more of a willingness to make a sacrifice. The spirit of the gift is weightier than the size of the gift. God does not need our gifts, but we need to make those gifts out of love and trust.