Sunday, November 11, 2012

All That She Had To Live On

There is nothing more that I can do.

There is nothing more that I can give.

I am at the end of my rope.

The widow in today's reading from the first book of Kings has hit rock bottom. There is a famine in the land, and she has run out of food. She has just enough to make two little biscuits for herself and her son, and then she expects to starve to death. There is no one who can help her. She has run out of options and run out of hope.

Any of us, if we were in her shoes, would have laughed at the prophet Elijah's request to bring him a bit of bread. At worst, we would have scolded him for being insensitive to the dire plight of a widow facing starvation and death. He should have been bringing her food.

But the prophet promises that if she will perform this kindness for him, God will reward her for it. In her extreme need, she does not say to Elijah, "I have done enough, and I have given enough." Rather she gives what little she has, and God blesses her beyond measure. God visited her when she was most abandoned and most alone and worked a miracle to save her. But what opened God's hand was her willingness to literally bet her life on the prophet's promise that God would not forget her act of kindness. Faith in the face of impossible circumstances unleashes God's mighty power in our lives.

Each of us has a place in our lives where we feel powerless. It may be in our personal life, in our family or in our work. We feel that we have done all that we can do. We feel that we have given all that we can give. Nothing has changed. We have seen no improvement despite our best efforts. The situation may have become so dire that we have fallen into depression or bitterness because of it. It may be sucking up so much of our energy that we are unable to find joy and peace in our daily lives. We may feel that we are at the end of our rope with no hope in sight.

It is when we have hit bottom that God comes to meet us. It is when we have exhausted all our options that God reminds us that he alone is all-powerful and that he will help us if we place it in his hands. A simple act of faith is the first step in turning things around for the better.

However, there is one catch. Before God starts to turn things around in our life, he may ask us to do something we think we are unable to do. As with the widow in today's reading, he may ask us to give something we think we are unable to give. It is God's way of opening a door for us into a world of new possibilities. Mother Angelica who founded the global Catholic television network, EWTN, often said, "If we are unwilling to do the ridiculous, God will be unable to do the impossible." If we want to see a real change in our lives and in our world, we must be willing to trust God and to do whatever he tells us.

In today's gospel reading, Jesus introduces us to another widow and holds her up as an example of faith and generosity. She is also in extreme need, with little to give except two coins worth mere pennies. It was too little to do anyone any good. Though others put into the treasury much more significant sums of money, it is her contribution that Jesus points out and that we reflect upon two thousand years later. The courage and faith she demonstrated in abandoning what little she had into God's hands has done more to confirm and strengthen the faith of believers over the centuries than millions of dollars in contributions could ever have done. Great faith makes even small contributions yield infinite dividends.

Most of the time, you and I fail to contribute our time, talents or money not because we are selfish and want to keep them to ourselves, but because we do not think it will do any good. We fear that what little we have to give will make no difference. We see how gifted others are and may feel intimidated. Or we may hold our talents in such low esteem that we think anyone can do the same and so we are not needed. But nothing can be further from the truth. God has placed each of us here for a reason. Each of us is irreplaceable. No one else can do what you or I are able to do. No one else can reach the hearts that you or I are able to reach. Each of our contributions are needed no matter how small or insignificant they may seem. God sees the heart. If we give of our time, talent and money with humility, love and faith, then God will make it multiply and bear fruit beyond our power to imagine.

God has gathered us here today and prepared a meal for us. It is a wafer of bread which seems very small and insignificant. And yet, it happens to be the very flesh and blood of Jesus, the Savior of the World. It is taken from a jar of flour which has never gone empty and has nourished countless saints and sinners throughout the centuries. God never fails to make it available to us, small though it may seem. As we prepare our hearts and minds to receive this tremendous gift of God's love, let us ask him what it is he wants us to do. Where can we give more? Where can we do more? If we think we do not have it within us to go one more day, let us turn to him to find that strength. And then God's power will be unleashed in our lives in big and small ways. Doors will open for us, and hearts will be touched. And we will know what it is like to have the joy of the Lord be our strength.

(image by Mary Walker)

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