The Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 7, 2021 Cycle B
Fr. José Maria de Sousa Alvim Calado Cortes, F.S.C.B.
Chaplain, Saint John Paul II National Shrine, Washington, D.C.
Sunday Reading Meditations
Today’s Word of God tells us that if we offer whatever we are and have to the Lord, we receive much more.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus praises a poor widow who gave all she had: “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury” (Mk 12:43). She gave up everything because she treasured God above all else. As Jesus said to a rich young man, “[i]f you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven” (Mt 19:21).
The poor widow gave her two coins in the knowledge that God would multiply her little offering, as Jesus declared in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:3). She not only gave her two coins but her whole heart as well.
When someone finds the kingdom of heaven, nothing else he has matters anymore, as Jesus says: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Mt 13:44).
God asks everything of us because he wants to be everything to us. He gives himself totally to us, but also asks us to give everything to him, to be totally for him.
In today’s first reading, the prophet Elijah asks a poor widow to give him everything she has. The prophet initially only asked for a glass of water, but then he also requested a bit of bread. At the time, there was a great drought and famine in Israel, so she was nearly out of flour. The widow tells Elijah: “I have nothing baked; there is only a handful of flour in my jar and a little oil in my jug. Just now I was collecting a couple of sticks, to go in and prepare something for myself and my son; when we have eaten it, we shall die” (1 Kgs 17:12). Even so, the prophet asks the widow to use up her last flour and oil to bake him a little cake.
There is a moment of hesitation. The woman is afraid of losing all she has. The Devil tells us not to give because what we posses is going to be lost. He tempts us with the lie that God is a taker and not a giver. However, the prophet tells the widow: “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’” (1 Kgs 17:13–14). This promise overcomes the woman’s fear. She believes the prophet, gives all she has and a miracle occurred: “She left and did as Elijah had said. She was able to eat for a year, and he and her son as well; the jar of flour did not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry” (1 Kgs 17:15–16).
God does not ask us for everything because he wants to take what we have but in order to give us so much more, as Saint Gregory Nazianzen said: “He asks so little and gives so much, in this life and in the next, to those who love him sincerely.” God asks us to give him everything so that we can completely open our hearts to the fullness of his love.
In the Eucharist, we bring bread and wine, which God then transforms into the body and blood of Christ, who gives himself to us, as today’s second reading says: “But now once for all he has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by his sacrifice” (Heb 9:26).
We can only offer ourselves together with Christ as participants in his offering of himself to the Father, as Thomas à Kempis wrote in The Imitation of Christ: “Offer yourself purely and entirely to God with the offering of the Body of Christ in Mass and Communion […] As I offered Myself willingly to God the Father […] so ought you to be willing to offer yourself to Me day by day in the Mass […] Offer yourself to Me […] your offering will be accepted. Behold, I offered Myself wholly to the Father for you, I even gave My whole Body and Blood for food that I might be all yours, and you Mine forever.”
Today’s responsorial psalm says: “The LORD keeps faith forever, secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry” (Ps 146:7). We praise the Lord and we give him thanks! His love for us is infinite! In gratitude for his goodness, may we offer ourselves wholeheartedly to him! Amen.