Sunday, Nov. 11, is the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B, Cycle II).
1 Kings 17:10-16, Psalm 146:7-10, Hebrews 9:24-28 and Mark 12:38-44 or 12:41-44
This is the Sunday after the presidential election. With issues like abortion, religious freedom and the definition of marriage in the balance, this Election Day was more consequential than most.
So perhaps it’s appropriate that on this Sunday our readings celebrate a woman whose self-giving of a tiny amount of money attracted the praise and intention of the Second Person of the Trinity.
The truth is, as consequential as this election is — and as the bishops pointed out, this one is gigantically, enormously consequential — in the perspective of heaven, the world is always a few saints away from significant improvement.
The widow in today’s Gospel must be a saint: Her charity is praised by Jesus himself. In fact, his interaction with her was the opposite of his interaction with the Rich Young Man. Remember: The Rich Young Man had followed the Ten Commandments his whole life and asked what more he needed to do to gain eternal life. Jesus said, "One thing you lack: Go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."
The man couldn’t do it: He was too attached to his many possessions. The widow should be even more attached to her possessions, since she has so few, but she is not. She gave all she had to God.
If anyone has a right to be angry at God or at the world, it is a widow in a society like that of the New Testament. She was deprived of her livelihood by the death of her husband. Many would naturally wonder how that is God’s will. But the Gospel’s widow doesn’t have this attitude; she gave sacrificially to the Temple.
She is reminiscent of the widow in today’s first reading, who is quick to be generous with Elijah when he visits her. The repayment the Old Testament widow gets is a full jar of flour and plenty of oil; later, Elijah even resurrects her son. The repayment the New Testament widow gets is far greater, but it is not as immediately obvious. After encountering Christ, she remains a poor widow.
But the second reading promises her much more.
Says the Book of Hebrews: "Just as it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the Judgment, so also Christ, offered once to take away the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to take away sin, but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him."
At her judgment, the widow will get what she eagerly awaits — heaven — because she loves God so much.
What about us? "Our attitude about our neighbor will disclose acceptance or refusal of Divine love" (Catechism, 678).
On Judgment Day, no matter how much we say we loved God, our deeds will tell a deeper truth. The extent to which we give of ourselves to others is the extent to which we have accepted or refused God’s love in this life.
What Christ wants from his Church is a more authentic witness to his love: He wants us to give more, love him more, and bring more people to love him.
The ways to do that are as numerous as there are people in the world. A generous mother who is open to life and is always ready to serve her children gives her all. A father who works all day and then serves his family instead of himself in the evening gives his all. A student who studies hard instead of procrastinating gives all. A single person who keeps pure gives all, too. So does a religious who serves others at a nursing home or hospital. A priest who offers the Mass reverently and teaches his parishioners well also gives all.
Christ is rooting for us, not in "a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself, that he might now appear before God on our behalf."
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.