My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
One of the things that I love about the Bible is that it tells stories about ordinary men and women and about family life. The Bible is rooted in the world we live in — real people, real situations that we all face.
Our Scripture readings today remind us that God pays attention to the people that our society often forgets. In the times of the Bible, just like in our times, society doesn’t pay much attention to widows or others who are poor or vulnerable. But God is different.
For God, every life matters. Every person has a life story that is important. The gaze of God is always a gaze of love. And his eyes are always turned with the most tender love — toward those who are living at the margins of society, those who society forgets.
So in our readings today, these two poor widows are held up as models of charity and self-giving — models of the kind of love that God expects from all of us.
In the first reading today, from the Book of Kings, we heard the sad and beautiful story of a widow who is living with her young son. The background is that there has been a severe drought and this has led to a famine.
Things are so desperate that this woman is out collecting firewood to cook the last bit of food she has for herself and her child.
Then prophet Elijah is passing through and he meets the woman. He asks for hospitality — some water and some bread.
Now, the woman has a hard choice. She does not have enough. If she gives Elijah what little she has, she won’t have anything left for her family.
It’s a challenging decision.
But Elijah makes a beautiful promise to her. He says to her:
Do not be afraid...
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.”
A beautiful promise. And of course, the poor widow makes a great act of faith. She trusts in God’s promise — and her faith is rewarded.
My dear brothers and sister, this is the faith we need. If we are generous with what we have, God will always provide. It’s true, it’s not always easy. So we have to ask for the Lord to increase our faith.
Maybe just as the Apostles did, saying to the Lord, increase our faith. Increase my faith.
Now in the passage of the Gospel, we also heard a beautiful story about a woman of faith. As we heard, Jesus is sitting down near the temple in Jerusalem and he’s watching all the people as they come to bring up their offerings to the treasury.
He watches wealthy people bring big donations. And then he sees a poor widow, coming, approaching, and placing two small coins in the treasury.
Then he calls his disciples and he tells them that this poor widow has great faith and great love in her heart.
“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, she has contributed all she had,
her whole livelihood.”
Yes, she’s like to poor widow in today’s first readings. She does not have much to give but she gives all that she has.
Jesus says, she gave her whole livelihood. Let’s think about it, it’s heroic.
But this is also the kind of love that Jesus has for us, as we heard from the Letter to the Hebrews in the second reading of today’s Mass. On the Cross, Jesus gave all that he had, his whole life, as a sacrifice for us. For you and for me.
So in the readings of today’s Mass, we see the beautiful example of how our love for God must be. We see that these two widows are our models of the love of God. The love that Jesus commands.
So that’s the kind of love that we should have. The love that is generous, giving ourselves to God and to others.
Because when we give, it is always a sign of our love, a sign of our faith. We need to help the poor, especially the poor. All those who are in most need.
That’s the lesson of today’s Scriptures. It’s always like that. Any passage of Scriptures that talks about this matter is asking us to be really generous. To give to the poor and to the most in need. Time, talent, and treasure — whatever we have that we can give to the poor, cause we are doing it for the love of God.
When you give to the poor and to our brothers and sisters in need, we are giving it to God.
Pope Francis said this morning, that what he counts — he said something like, what he counts is not what comes from our wallets but what comes from our hearts. And that’s what this is about.
So today, let us especially ask to be generous from our hearts. To give to God and to others what we can, with absolute generosity.
And as we know, there are many ways in which we can help the poor. In our Catholic tradition, there are so many beautiful opportunities to help our brothers and sisters.
One of them is the Legacy Society of the Archdiocese, and some of the members are here and we thank all of you for your generosity.
But also, here are our Cathedral parish, we have our Cathedral outreach program that helps hundreds of people in their needs.
Then we have, in the Archdiocese, Together in Mission that also helps poor schools and parishes.
We have Catholic charities, we have St. Vincent de Paul Society, and so many other charities in our Church.
But we can also give our time and talents. Sometimes just to be generous with our time, taking time to listen to people — people, as we know, are lonely out there. Some other times, just open your hearts to spend time with them, and listen to them and talk to them.
It’s a great gift, a great sacrifice we can offer to God. And it starts, obviously, in our own families.
Time is a beautiful treasure, and nowadays, as we all know, we are all so busy. We need time just to stop, to pray, to listen, to be with one another and that’s a beautiful treasure we can share with others.
So, my dear brothers and sisters, remind us that God pays attention that our society always often forgets. That God has a tender gaze that watches over those who are lonely and vulnerable.
Today, let us ask for the grace to be always attentive to the needs of others, especially in our families.
So let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary to help us today to see with the “gaze” of God. Let us pray for a heart that is generous, that sees the world with tenderness and compassion, like the poor widows in our Scripture readings today.
And may Mary our Blessed Mother really help us to be generous with God and with others, and especially with the most in need.
1. Readings (32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B): 1 Kings 17:10-16; Ps. 146:7-10; Heb. 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44.