Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 155 (NAB Translation)
The first reading is from the First Book of Kings in the Old Testament. In our passage for today, we see a poor widow and her son during a time of famine in ancient Israel. The widow and her son are on the verge of starvation themselves when the prophet Elijah has the nerve to ask her to give him something to eat. In an act of pure faith and obedience she does as the prophet asks, giving Elijah all the food she has. By way of a miracle, God does not allow her to starve, but rather takes her sacrificial gift and increases it so that it becomes enough to feed not only the God’s prophet, but to also feed the widow herself and her son, with food left over. Despite her poverty, this widow gives everything she has and God uses it to bless her and her son. This story serves as a challenge to us to ask if we trust God enough to give sacrificially.
Praise the Lord, my soul!
This week’s second reading from the letter to the Hebrews, continues to focus on Christ’s role as a high priest of the New Covenant by contrast to the high priests under the old covenant. Because the letter to the Hebrews was written for Jewish converts to Christ, there is a great deal of comparison and contrast between the old institutions of Judaism which have been fulfilled, completed, and perfected by Christ. The main theme in today’s reading is that Christ has become the perfect sacrifice made with His own blood, rather than the blood of animals. His sacrifice only needed to happen once for all mankind compared to the recurring sacrifices of the Old Testament that had to be made over and over for the sins of the Hebrew people. This passage also contrasts the Old Testament sanctuary made by human hands that has been replaced by the sanctuary in heaven where Christ resides. Christ will return at the end of time to judge us and give us the possibility to enter with Him into His glory in heaven. For each of us death and judgment must come once, but Christ’s unique sacrifice opens the possibility of mercy and salvation to those who eagerly await Him.
How happy are the poor in spirit:
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
This week’s Gospel is from St Mark. Here we see another story of a widow making a generous sacrifice. But the passage starts by warning us to beware of scribes who sought personal prestige while neglecting their duties to the poor and suffering. Jesus’ warning that they will receive a more severe sentence on the day of judgment is like His other warnings against hypocrisy, especially when people use a false reputation for holiness to enhance their own reputations. As St John Chrysostom says, “Simulated holiness is a double iniquity.”
By contrast, Jesus points out the selfless act of a widow who, not thinking of herself at all, gives everything she has to the treasury. Like the widow in the first reading who gives her only remaining food to Elijah, this widow’s gift is of great merit because it is truly sacrificial. The merit of a gift in God’s eyes corresponds to the intention and generosity of the giver, apart from gift’s external value. As always, this passage might be used to examine our own consciences. Are we willing to give until it hurts? Are we strong enough in our faith that we would we imitate the widow’s generosity and total trust in God?
Gospel Meditation from Bishop Vásquez
Imagine the situation of the first reading. Gathering two sticks to build a tiny fire over which to cook an equally tiny morsel of bread for yourself and your child. Then being destitute, the two would starve and die. Yet, she still shared with Elijah. The widow in the Gospel shows the same level of sacrificial giving. Has our encounter with the Lord left us with this deep love of God? Deep enough to give from our poverty not our surplus? Can we really love without giving deeply? Where are we being called to give deeply?