As we move through our living from one Holy Liturgy to the next, we increasingly receive, are blest by, and extend that Holy Presence in even the smallest action. We pray with the largeness of our smallest gesture. We pray as well to receive the blessings of God through the very small events of our lives. As each thing is charged with electrons, each thing is charged also with the power to reveal the Creator, Sender, Giver.
We hear a “feel-good” story about Elijah in today’s First Reading. Earlier in the chapter the prophet has predicted a drought. God tells him to hide out then in the desert near a flowing stream. When that dries up Elijah hears that he is to go to one more place, a city where he will find a widow in need.
The widow is picking up sticks for her last meal for her and her son. Elijah bids her to bring him some water and a flour cake. Here’s the tension. She knows him to be a man of God, but she has only enough for her last family meal. So she goes off to do what is asked. She hears him say that the Lord will keep faithful to her for her generosity. She had to trust.
It is a familiar theme. There is a little drama. A drought, a widow, a widow in deep need having so little, a word-promise from the invisible God through the play of a holy man are the elements. Will God be faithful? Will the woman trust? Is the prophet too demanding? All works out in the end.
The theme always seems to be that God blesses the little, the unimportant, the poor. The various conditions of poverty or need form the context for God’s faithful love to be described. There has to be some human response of course, but not to initiate God’s love, but to allow that fidelity to be real.
The Gospel presents even a more striking drama. Jesus instructs the crowd to watch out for the ways of the scribes. These scribes are regarded as important, powerful and holy. A tension begins. Jesus’ ways are different and He is putting Himself in opposition to the religious institution. By calling the pretentious ways of the scribes into question, Jesus sets a context for even a more important teaching.
He condemns the necessities of the scribes to be treated with honor in the marketplaces. They have to wear show-off things and say long prayers which indicate how holy they want others to think they are. In contrast we move to a position opposite the temple coffers.
Again a widow becomes a central character. While the wealthy are putting in more, because they have more, she puts in her little, which is all she has. This ends the chapter and highlights or reinforces last week’s Gospel about loving God and loving the neighbor, which story immediately precedes this Gospel. The widow is in the temple to perform her ritual of loving God according to her religious tradition. She empties her savings to be shared by others, her neighbors. She does not parade her importance, but her actions are significant, that is they point to a deep reality of the ways of Jesus.
Allow me to play with an important word and by doing so, give a deeper meaning to that sacred word. “You-Care-istic” is the result of understanding the Central Mystery of our faith. The first “You” Who cares is Jesus Who cares for us by remaining with us and uniting us. The scribes are seen as caring for themselves, their images. Jesus is seen as caring for the soul-life of His disciples and those who will follow Him. He blesses what is so little and makes much of what seems unimportant. You care for us and our response is to receive and extend Your care.
The second “you” is the person who receives the Littleness made Real. The “amen” is what the widow said to Elijah. Our “amen” is the response to Jesus’ saying “You care for the poor, the needy, the neighbor in whatever condition you find her or him.” “You-Care-Istic” living is how we allow God to bless our small-selves and offer those same blest-selves as real-presences of Jesus.
The scribes made much of their little. They covered themselves with pretenses and lived a “Me-care-Istic” life. Jesus makes much of our “little” and as the widow of the Gospel, Jesus blesses how we will love God and our neighbor as He graces us so we can love ourselves. True, it is difficult to love our fragile, limited, imperfect poor self. Jesus blesses that and says, “You-Care” as I care for you. “You-Care” and I will care through you.
“The Lord keeps faith forever, secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry.” Ps. 146,7
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