Today’s readings… present us with a variety of people and there is an important lesson to learn from each one of them.
The first people we meet are the Prophet Elijah, a widow and her son.
God has always sent prophets to his people.
Mother Theresa with all her doubts was a prophet.
John Paul II was a prophet.
Nelson Mandela was a prophet.
Mahatma Gandhi was a prophet.
Dorothy Day was a prophet.
The CUA Graduates who work at Simple House or do long term service are prophetic.
Our students who tutor in the DC public and charter schools are prophetic.
Our lives are filled with prophets.
Because God loves us he always sends us prophets and teachers to help us on our way home to Him.
And every age has its own way of getting lost so God sends prophets to every age.
In the first reading from the 1st Book of Kings,
Elijah asks a poor widow to make him a little bread.
He makes his request to a person who is in the most desperate of straits.
She and her son have nothing to eat because of a famine
but because of her goodness,
and because she refused to turn away a person in need,
and because she dared to trust the words of Elijah,
God gave her beautiful prophecy to hold onto.
'The jar of flour will not go empty,
nor the jug of oil run dry,
until the day when the LORD sends rain upon the earth”
and they didn’t.
She and her son were spared starvation because they listened and heard and trusted the Prophet.
What the Elijah asked her seemed to fly in the face of reason,
but she dared to believe and she and her son were saved.
Elijah was called to prophesy he was called to speak the words of God to His people and he said yes.
He was a prophet for his age and all ages… no easy task indeed.
Because of his prophetic voice he was hated and his life was frequently in danger.
The scribes were not bad people.
They studied the law and they loved the Lord so much that they dedicated themselves in service of the Law.
According to the law a scribe was not allowed to demand payment for his services.
But because they were often generous with their time,
and because they cared about people,
The scribes were often loved and respected.
Many people gave them gifts and showed them special signs of respect.
Sadly, some of the scribes became used to the respect that others had earned,
so much so that they came to expect places of honor in the synagogues and at table.
They came to expect to be noticed, and recognized.
And while they couldn’t get formally paid for their work they began to expect gifts for their services.
What was their sin?
Simply put the love and service that so many scribes had given was no longer free.
Their love was not free… it came with strings attached.
Their good works were not motivated by a care and concern for others but rather they were motivated by greed and self interest.
Jesus warned his disciples not to imitate the Scribes and the Pharisees
Jesus was sure to point out the failings of the Scribes to his disciples because he wanted to make sure that they and we did not become like them.
Jesus loved freely.
Jesus loved without expecting anything in return, and Jesus wanted all of us to do the same.
Finally we meet the widow in the temple.
I read in a commentary that the word widow in Hebrew is derived from the root word “Alem” which means unable to speak.
A widow in the time of Jesus was the poorest of the poor.
She had no rights,
no rights to property
no rights to inheritance or just compensation.
She was dependent on everyone.
Indeed, she was even unable to speak for herself
or defend herself.
As Jesus sat watching the pilgrims in the temple.
near the Woman’s court there she was…
Maybe her poverty could be discerned from her clothing, maybe it couldn’t,
but when she entered the temple, she made an act of complete trust.
She gave all that she had, she gave everything she had to live on.
Even though it was a tiny about… Jesus noted that she gave the most of anyone.
We really don’t know what else happened to her, we don’t know anything more about her.
Jesus did not follow her, he didn’t give her money, he didn’t give her food, or heal her.
She simply moved on in the crowd and disappeared,
and her absolute trust in God’s providence has inspired and challenged everyone who ever heard of her story to do the same.
Knowing Jesus and knowing God’s providence we can only assume that she was OK that somehow in God’s took care of this little poor woman who completely trusted in Him.
What does all of this have to do with us?
The prophet, the widow and her son, the scribes, and the widow in the temple each offer us important lessons about discipleship.
The widow and her son teach us the importance of hospitality and generosity.
The widow was recklessly generous.
She risked not only her life but the life of her son and because of her generosity
she and her son were saved while many others died in the famine.
She dared to listen to a prophet, a prophet who’s request made no sense whatsoever.
Her example calls all of us to be generous,
her example, calls us to be attentive to the prophets who God sends our way.
Are we willing to listen.
Do we listen to the prophets of our time?
Are we attentive to the prophetic call of the Church?
The example of the Prophet Elijah calls us to ask ourselves if we have accepted God’s call to live humble prophetic lives.
To be prophets, in our homes, on our campus, in our parishes and at our places of work.
Have our lives helped others be better people? Have we brought them closer to God or farther away ?
Through the sad example of the scribes Jesus reminds his disciples that our good works must be free and our love must be free just like God’s love is free.
When we do good we must never expect something in return,
places of honor, or moments of recognition, or payment, should never and can never be a condition or motivation for our service and our sacrifices.
This lesson is so counter cultural today.
So many of us are conditioned to ask… What’s in it for me ?
Finally the widow in the temple teaches us that in our good works, and in our discipleship we are called to absolute trust in God’s love and God’s providence.
Jesus pointed out the widow because she trusted.. and in doing so he calls us to do the same.
So often it seems that our good efforts are doomed to fail
So often it seems that love doesn’t make any sense
So often is seems that this person or that person isn’t worthy of our love and our sacrifices.
Today the scriptures challenge us,
each of us must look into our hearts and ask ourselves…
How generous am I?
How obedient am I to God reckless call to love for free
How much do I trust… the widow trusted completely in God’s love and Gods providence her example calls us to do the same.
Lots to think about… have a great week.