VATICAN — In his Nov. 11 Angelus address, Pope Benedict XVI reflected on Sunday’s Mass readings featuring two poor widows who provide timeless models of faith and charity.
“In today’s Gospel, the poor widow gives everything she possesses to the Temple,” the Pope said, as he addressed the crowd from the papal apartments overlooking St. Peter’s Square.
“May her unconditional offering inspire us to rely on God alone, while attributing to everything else its due place and proper worth,” he said.
In that Gospel reading, from Mark 12:38-44, the poor widow’s generosity at the Temple collection is contrasted with the great offerings of the rich. Whereas the rich gave from their excess, the widow gave from her poverty.
“In truth, I tell you, this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury,” Christ told his disciples.
As for those scribes who took pride of place in the Temple and loved being shown respect and admiration, Christ’s condemnation of them is a condemnation of the piously proud of today, too.
“These are the men who devour the property of widows and for show offer long prayers,” Christ told his disciples. “The more severe will be the sentence they receive.”
The Gospel reading was complemented in theme and teaching with the first reading from the Book of Kings, which recounted the prophet Elijah’s visit to the home of a widow and son in a land stricken with drought and laden with despair.
Though they had only enough flour and oil to make one cake and then wait to die, the widow provided food for Elijah, and her jar of oil and supply of flour were forever replenished afterward.
Bad weather bookended the Pope’s address.
Thunder and a steady drizzle preceded the Angelus, the traditional Marian prayer recited at noon each day. Toward the end of his address, the rain began to fall again, straight and steady. But there was a calm during most of 10-minute address.
Despite the inclement, albeit comfortably warm autumn weather, St. Peter’s Square was thronged with pilgrims and visitors, many wearing ponchos and holding umbrellas bought last minute from nearby vendors.
These two readings, said the Holy Father, provide examples in faith and charity that the faithful ought to model themselves after. They are especially relevant during this Year of Faith, which the Holy Father proclaimed last month.
After the Angelus, the Pope extended his greetings to different peoples. He drew the attention of English speakers, especially the large group of Filipinos, to the Gospel reading, commonly known as the “Parable of the Talents.”
“Jesus invites us to reflect with gratitude on the gifts we have received and to use them wisely for the growth of God’s Kingdom,” the Pope told the cheering crowd, by now getting wet with rain.
“May his words summon us to an ever deeper conversion of mind and heart,” he said, “and a more effective solidarity in the service of all our brothers and sisters.”
Glad to be there, but not so comfortable with the rain, was a group of pilgrims from the United States.
Father Patrick Dolan, pastor of the Church of the Most Precious Blood in Denver, was leading 48 of his parishioners on pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Italy.
“Their chance to see the Pope as a sign of our unity of faith and to be here in St. Peter’s Square and share that energizing spirit with Catholics from around the world gives a vision of the Church that really lifts us out of our own culture,” said Father Dolan, who had spent six years in Rome as a seminarian.
“There’s a temptation toward provincialism in the Church back in America. This Angelus address shows us all that the Church is more than just the neighborhood parish.”
Pilgrims Cathy and Tom Calhoun were happy to have received the papal blessing after the Angelus, bestowed upon them as well as the religious items they brought.
“We brought some rosaries to be blessed, including two for our grandsons,” Cathy Calhoun said as gray skies poured clear rain. “We hope that they will give them guidance as they grow in faith.”