Sunday Scriptures

Insane? Or People of Faith?

By Father Anthony F. Raso

In the First reading today and in the Gospel, two women appear who, by our usual human standards, seem to be out of their minds.

In the Book of Kings, the widow is almost out of food and has concluded that, after she fixes this one last morsel of food, she and her son are going to proceed to die of starvation. Yet, when the prophet Elijah appears at her door and asks her to prepare the meal for him instead, she does so on the improbable promise that all she has to do is have faith and everything will be all right. Then, in the Gospel, Jesus praises the poor widow who puts her last two pennies in the Temple treasury.

We are called to see this real goodness emerging from this much faith and to go and do the same. Amen. Please stand for the Profession of Faith.

The problem with this is: Do we have this kind of goodness? Do we have this much faith? Do we think these women are heroines, or do we just think that while they appear in two biblical stories, you really can’t take all of this literally. After all, if you did, here in real life, you wouldn’t be holy. You’d just be out of your own mind. Right?

Examples of Faith

Well, uncomfortably enough for us sinners, that Gospel represents the teaching of Jesus and that first reading is from the Old Testament, the inspired Word of God. These two poor widows aren’t heroines in a story by the Brothers Grimm, but examples of faith presented to us by the Son of God and His Holy Spirit. We aren’t supposed to hear about them and then just sigh and say that the world would be a better place if there really were people of goodness and faith like them. We’re supposed to hear this message and then go out and be such people. If we did, we wouldn’t be people who were insane. We’d be people of faith.

Faith, clearly enough, is not an easy virtue to possess but is a key virtue in the sense of the key that opens the door to all the other virtues. It requires putting our trust in God’s hands, and not our own. In that first reading, everything in fact turns out well for the widow and her son, and there is a satisfyingly happy ending. In the Gospel though, the poor widow puts her last pennies in the treasury and then goes home. Did she have a happy ending too? We don’t know, and disconcertingly enough, Jesus doesn’t promise that she will, at least as far as this world is concerned.

Whom exactly will we be trusting when we practice faith as courageous as this? The author of Hebrews gives us the answer today in no uncertain terms: We will be trusting in Jesus, Our Lord.

The decision we have to make is: Will we do our best and wait for His coming in faith, or are we going to say that while He may be God and all of that, we’d better depend on our own common sense. Jesus is God, sure, but let’s face it, He’s away up there in heaven and we are down here on earth. We’d better just take care of Number One!

Many people will agree with us if we think like that, but it is abundantly clear that Jesus won’t be one of them. In His opinion, we’ll be just another group of scribes, seeking seats of honor in church in the midst of all the other scribes. Even when we, like them, “recite lengthy prayers,” the words will be hollow because there will be no fundamental goodness in them and little faith.

Way of the Scribes

A lot of people get baptized and confirmed and then like the scribes, spend the rest of their lives congratulating themselves. When it was time to plant the seeds in the garden at springtime, the seeds got planted. However, like the scribes, that was enough of that. Summer brought the ignoring of the garden and in autumn, they gave no attention to the beauty the harvest was supposed to bring.

On the other hand, the widow in Kings today knows that she’s done her best in the summer and has gathered together everything she could in the fall. Now, the fruit she’s gathered belongs to God and His prophet. The widow in the Gospel has not forgotten the Father in Heaven Who brought her to life. She’s ready to follow the Spirit in entrusting what little she has to Him. Sometimes, like the widow in Kings, the reward for such faith will be seen in this world; Sometimes, like the widow in the Gospel, the reward will not be so evident. In either case, the treasure will be great in heaven.

The wisdom of this world of scribes tells us to keep our eyes down and fixed upon this world. The grace of the Holy Spirit of goodness and faith tells us to look up at the Cross of Christ and at the resurrection that waits for us.

Readings for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Kings 17:10-16

Psalm 146: 7, 8-9. 9-10

Hebrews 9: 24-28

Mark 12: 38-44 or  Mark 12: 41-44

Father Anthony F. Raso is the parochial vicar at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Dyker Heights.


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