THE Scripture readings this Sunday present stories about two widows. The first one is from the Book of Kings. Thirsty and hungry after a long trip to the city of Zarephath, Elijah the prophet asked a widow he met for a cupful of water. The woman immediately responded to Elijah’s plea.
Then Elijah asked the widow for a bit of bread. She answered, “As the Lord, your God lives, 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.”
Elijah responded, “Do not be afraid. Go and do as you propose. But first, make me a little cake and bring it to me. Then you can prepare something for yourself and your son. For the Lord, the God of Israel says, “The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the Lord sends rain upon the earth.”
The widow left and did as Elijah had said. She was able to eat for a year, and he and her son as well. Indeed, the jug of flour did not go empty, nor the oil ran dry for her and her son as the Lord foretold through Elijah.
The second story is from the Gospel of Mark. As Jesus sat down opposite the treasury, he observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many wealthy people put in a large sum. Then he saw a poor widow put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”
These two widow stories are stories of deep faith. In their stark poverty, both widows trusted in God’s providence. Both heroically offered help from the poverty of their hearts and lives. Their examples inspire us to do the same—to give when it hurts, to trust in God’s unsurpassable generosity!
But should these stories mirror not only human stories of faith and generosity but also God’s heart? God’s heart is that of these two widows’ hearts. He would do anything for us, His children. He looks at us with compassion and love and desires what’s best for each of us. And what is best for us is more than material things or any achievement here on earth; it is living with him in eternity!
It’s why God responded exceedingly to the needs of the world and the human race by sending us His only Son to save us from sin and death. He gave us Jesus Christ to show us the way to eternal life through Jesus’ words, ministry, suffering, and death.
What God wants for us is an interior life that is replete with the joy of experiencing His profound and personal love. He wants us to know that He longs for us and He desires that we feel this longing every moment of our lives here on earth. As a priest said, “We are desired by the most desirable one: God himself.”
This is the heart of God—a heart that will do anything to keep us in His love, to save us from the wrath of human agony and sin. As we grapple with the mystery of the mass shooting in Thousands Oaks, California this past week that killed 12 people, let us submit ourselves to the mystery of God’s unsurpassable love.
It’s what Jason Coffman did while he announced on television the death of his first son, Cody. Heartbroken, he looked up to heaven, and with a cracking voice, he said, “O son, I love you so much. O Heavenly Father, just please be with him.”
In the poverty of our hearts let us also say, “O Heavenly Father, please be with the people who died in the mass shooting, and console their families with your love and promise of eternal life!”
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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1991-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.