November 11, 2018
Deacon Bill Hough
There are times when the Scripture readings really speak to me. For instance, today – “Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept … seats of honor in synagogues” – next to the priest. It is a good reminder that in today’s self-centered secular world, we will only find true satisfaction when we keep our focus on God.
And that’s what our readings are about today – faith and trust in God who will always provide. This faith and trust are present in our two poor widows, one in our first reading from the first book of Kings and the other in the gospel reading from Mark.
You may remember this Old Testament story of the prophet Elijah. The king of Israel at the time, Ahab, had married Jezebel, who worshipped the god Baal. She made the people of Israel worship her god and was out to destroy any prophet of the God of the Israelites. Elijah went into hiding, but before that, God had him announce a period of drought on all who worshipped Baal.
In our reading today, God has sent Elijah to the widow in Zarephath. She has nothing and is at the point of death from famine. However, Elijah guarantees that her flour and oil will not run dry until the drought is over. She believes and her trust in the word of God through Elijah is her salvation.
In our gospel reading, Jesus is in Jerusalem. His criticism of the scribes will soon lead to His death. But He has something to teach us. The poor widow is an example to His disciples. She has given everything she has and trusts that God will provide for her.
He contrasts the widow with those who are only concerned with their own wealth and honor.
It is not a bad thing to be rich or famous (or wear long robes). It becomes a problem when riches and fame become more important than the love of God and neighbor. I had a boss who once estimated that ninety percent of people who were rich and famous were not happy because they always wanted more. It is hard to argue with that when you look at the distance in today’s world between those who have and those who do not.
Jesus accused the scribes of this self-centeredness. However, we all must beware of this. Even the Apostles at times had a difficult time understanding the message of Jesus. Just a few weeks ago, we read about James and John who wanted to sit at the right hand of Jesus. The others were angry – because they didn’t think of it first.
The late Jesuit priest and scripture scholar Daniel Harrington pointed out the minor characters in Mark’s gospel who do respond to the message of Christ. Not only the widow in today’s reading, but he also includes the woman with the hemorrhages, the Gentile woman with the sick child, blind Bartimaeus, and the friendly scribe in last week’s gospel.
Father Harrington said that these minor characters remind us that genuine holiness resides in a humble and generous spirit that loves and is totally dependent on God – something that the Apostles eventually did learn.
Advent begins in just three weeks, so we are just a few weeks from the end of this liturgical year when we have been reading from the Gospel of Mark. Mark has given us some special parting gifts these past two Sundays. Last week we heard the entire meaning of Christian life – to love God and neighbor. This week we have the lesson of humility and trust in God alone.
Our challenge is to go out and to live these lessons.
With the grace we receive today from Jesus in His Word and in His Body and Blood, let us offer our lives to God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength. Then, as we go throughout this week, let us share this grace with all we meet.