All three of today’s readings present us a simple question: if everything was on the line, what would you give? Our Lord blesses those who trust in him and exceed expectations.
In today’s First Reading Elijah asks for a handout while Israel is suffering an extended drought. The widow doesn’t disagree, she simply thinks she’d has to choose between her, her son, or Elijah: one would starve to death for the sake of another, and ultimately as well. Elijah gives her an opportunity in faith to trust in the Lord’s Providence: she’ll be provided for until the drought ends for her generosity. She provides for her son and helps the Lord through helping Elijah and everything works out. For the widow helping Elijah put everything on the line—her life, her son’s life, and the last of her livelihood—and the Lord blessed her for it.
In today’s Second Reading the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that unlike other high priests, who sacrificed over and over without personal risk, the Lord sacrificed himself completely, once and for all, when everything was on the line for us. Our salvation was on the line. There was no expectation that the Lord would do anything about it whatsoever. We’d made the mess. As divine he had all the prestige and recognition in the world and no need to prove it. We spurned him through sin and brought all its consequences on our heads.
He assumed human nature and became one of us in a fallen world, with the hope that we would let him lead us back into the good graces of Our Heavenly Father, but his hope and our expectations were not on the same page: he hoped we’d welcome him as the Messiah saving us from sin, we’d hoped he would clean house socially and politically without any effort on our part other than cheering him on. He put his whole humanity on the line for us and showed us that when it comes to salvation we have to put our whole selves on the line too.
In the Gospel Our Lord is moved by the generosity of a poor widow who gives all she has to the Temple treasury. She sacrifices her livelihood for the sake of giving alms, and no one notices her because the amount seems so insignificant in the eyes of the world. It’s not insignificant to her, which is why it is so generous. She’s not doing it for good public relations, as the rich men are doing out of their surplus. She’s not even negotiating like Elijah and the widow in the First Reading. Little does she know that God himself is looking upon her sacrifice with contentment through the eyes of the Son and making it an example for the disciples to follow. She put her whole livelihood on the line for the sake of others.
We all know the expression “give ’til it hurts,” and we all know the thought of it makes us wince to one degree or another. If we put a little of our comfort and livelihood on the line in giving, whether time, talent, or treasure, Our Lord sees it and will bless us, even if the world doesn’t. Let’s be generous today in sharing what we have with others, knowing that if we take care of others Our Lord will take care of us abundantly.
Readings: 1 Kings 17:10–16; Psalm 146:7–10; Hebrews 9:24–28; Mark 12:38–44. See also 9th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday.