The 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – November 7, 2021
Lectionary Readings: 1 Kings 17:10-16; Ps. 146:7, 8-9, 9-10; Heb. 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44
Theme: Exemplar of selfless giving
The willingness to give all that one has is a central theme in the three readings. In the Second Reading, we are reminded that Jesus was the ultimate example of sacrificial giving when he died on the cross for our sakes. In the other two readings, we learn about two widows who are also models of selfless giving. This comes across as a twist; as widows in the ancient time and in the time of Jesus were often poor and would be more on the receiving end than bestowing gifts and charity.
Widows were then among the defenseless people. A woman whose husband had died had no inheritance rights in ancient Israel. A levirate marriage could be arranged when the dead husband had a brother (Deut. 25:5-10; Mark 12:18-27) and a priest’s daughter could rejoin her father’s household (Lev. 22:13). But most widows had to rely on charity or their children and relatives.
In Psalm 68:5, God is stated as the father of orphans and the protector of widows. In many other texts in the Hebrew Scriptures, God is presented as the ultimate defender of widows and orphans
(Deut. 14:29; Jer. 49:11). Isaiah and other prophets had urged the people to rescue the oppressed, defend the orphans, plead for the widows and protect them from exploitation. (Isaiah 1:17; Jer. 7:6; Ezek. 22:7; Zech. 7:10).
A judge was also obliged to take special care of widows (Deut. 10:18; 16:11, etc) and among the 12 curses, the people said ‘Amen’ to when they ratified their covenant with God is the following: Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan and the widow of justice (Deut. 27:19). Thus, widows are among the protected people of God. It is no wonder that Jesus said in the Gospel that those who devour widows’ houses will receive a greater condemnation.
But to the disciples, who were mostly Jews, it must have been a surprise at first to hear that the poor widow whom they knew ought to be a receiver of tzedakah (charitable giving) and was only able to give very little, is the model for giving. It makes sense only when we learn of Jesus’ explanation: She out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.
In the First Reading, we also learn about the selfless giving of a widow who had to feed the prophet Elijah before she and her son could eat (their last meal before they died of starvation). Although she was asked to give by Elijah and did so after she was told of the promises of Adonai, she received the blessings of being able to eat for many days as the jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail. Though she was not like the widow in the Gospel who was a firm believer, her giving was also an act of faith in Elijah whom she called a ‘man of God’.
Among the many lessons we learn, is that quantity does not matter much to God as do faith and the intention to give one’s all. We are to give even when it hurts and we can share not just money but also time, information, ideas, and our presence. As Jesus has taught the disciples, with the widow as the example, we too can teach others to be generous, by our words and actions.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. What have you shared that hurt or was like a sacrifice? 2. What can you possibly give for the sake of your faith that will entail a sacrifice?
Bibliography: Harrington, Sacra Pagina: The Gospel of Mark (Minnesota, 2002); Johnson, The Gospel of Luke (Minnesota, 1991); https://www.myjewishlearning.com/
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Minerva Generalao, Philippines, Bat Kol Alumna July 2014