Trust in God places us on the ‘road to blessedness’

Photo Caption: Tim Irwin teaches at Peoria Notre Dame High School, where he chairs the Theology Department. He is a member of St. Mark Parish in Peoria.

By: By Tim Irwin

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time/Nov. 8
1 Kings 17:10-16; Psalm 146:7,8-9,9-10; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44

The readings for the Holy Mass this week revolve around poor widows. The Scriptures cite the plight of the widow more than 70 times. In the cultures of the ancient world, women depended on the men of their family for their survival. A brutally short life expectancy left many women in the vulnerable condition of the widow.

In the first part of the Gospel reading, Jesus warns his followers, “Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext recite lengthy prayers.” Their superficial commitment to God coupled with a disregard for some of the most vulnerable people leads Jesus to say, “They will receive a very severe condemnation.” In the end, these scribes will not experience the blessedness that they now so ruthlessly seek.

In the first reading, Elijah the prophet arrives at Zarephath where he sees a widow gathering sticks to cook the last of her food for her son and herself. Then they will await a slow painful death from starvation. Elijah says, “Do not be afraid. Go and do as you propose. But first make me a little cake and bring it to me. Then you can prepare something for yourself and your son. For the Lord, the God of Israel, says, ‘The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the Lord sends rain upon the earth.'”
When, like the widow of Zarephath, we put aside our fear and place our trust in God, we put ourselves on the road to blessedness.

CATHOLIC “CODE WORD”
Where does that road to blessedness lead? In the second reading, the author of Hebrews answers that question: “Just as it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment, so also Christ, offered once to take away the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.” Salvation is the Catholic code word for the eternal blessing of risen life.

In the second part of the Gospel reading, Jesus alerts us to a woman who has put aside her fear and abandoned herself to God. Mark says, “He (Jesus) sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.'”

Jesus is not urging us to a life of financial negligence. Rather, the contribution of the widow illustrates how we might best respond when we find ourselves in a vulnerable condition. We are invited to place our trust in God even when it seems to surpass common sense because in so doing, we will realize that we are blessed today and invited to the eternal blessing of risen life.

The plight of the widows throughout Scripture suggests that we will be far more likely to abandon ourselves to God at a time of vulnerability. We don’t have to wait for a crisis to realize that we are blessed. Through prayer, sacrament, and service we can experience, as the poor widows did, the blessings that God bestows on each of us.

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