The life of a Christian disciple is a life of faith. Not a life of just believing in those important dogmas and doctrine that under-pin our understanding of who God is and who we are not. No, we are called to have a lively faith; an expectant faith; a faith-life imbued with the power of the Holy Spirit. This is what St. Paul in his letter to the Romans refers to as living a life in obedience of faith. This faith is based on what we see and hear the Father doing – we are always responding to His actions in our life. It is a faith that draws us into and reveals to the world the life-giving love of Jesus. And, the two widows in today’s readings illustrate for us what kind of faith we who call ourselves Christian should have or need. Why? Because faith is the foundation and substance of our Christian life.
The widow in the First Reading isn’t even a Jew. Did you hear what she said, “As the Lord your God lives.” Not, “As the Lord my God lives, but your God.” And yet, she trusts in the word of Elijah and the promise he makes in the Lord’s name. Let’s be honest, there were no prospects for food and the prophet asking to be served. She was making a fire to cook the last bit of food and then sit with her son to die. And yet, she serves Elijah and doesn’t give out of her excess but out of her need. She put the man of God before herself and her family.
The widow in the Gospel also gives everything she had. Notice how she gave: without complaint, without grimacing, without calculating how many lattes she could forego this week. She too gave out of her need and not her excess. In fact, the Word of God says that she gave out of her poverty to support the work of God’s priests in the Temple.
Their self-giving and self-sacrifice, opened a pathway for God the Father to work in their life. They reveal the Father’s love in giving His only Son, and Christ’s love in sacrificing himself on the cross.
Again in today’s Epistle, we hear about Christ sacrificing his life in order that we might be reconciled to the Father: Jesus wants to turn our hearts and faces back to the Father – that is why He came (see Malachi 4:6); to renew and restore our humanity: we were made for grace – it makes us human; and to conform us to the likeness of Christ in order to potentially enter into the glory of heaven.
We are invited to imitate Jesus’ sacrifice of love in our own lives. We will be judged, not by the amount we give but rather whether we are Christ’s disciples and if the gifts he has entrusted to us reflect our livelihood, our whole beings, all our heart, mind, soul and strength.
So, how do we respond then to the Word of God proclaimed before us? The first question is, “Have we chosen to become a disciple of Christ?” Baptism, attending Mass every week and even serving the needy, while necessary and important does not make us a disciple. Choosing an intentional, personal, yes, even an intimate relationship with Jesus is our salvation.
Brothers and sisters, if you think I am sounding evangelical, you’re right! Introducing people to Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior is a Catholic expectation. We said it first! In fact, it was the Council of Trent (see Chapter 8) that first coined that term: it’s just being out on loan to our Christian brethren for a while. There is more than the acceptance but it is the starting-line.
Once we are in relationship with Him then and only then, should we ask, “Are we giving all that we can to the Lord—not out of a sense of forced duty, but in a spirit of generosity and love (see 2 Corinthians 9:6-7)?” To participate in those corporal and spiritual works of mercy is meant to be Christ to those whom we serve.
Our faith is not only in the relationship with the Lord but in His provision to do what He places before us. The prophet, this man of God today tells us, “Do not be afraid.” And, Blessed John Paul II echoes Jesus’ words to Peter after a long night of fishing that yielded nothing. He said, “Put out into the deep.” We know the story. Don’t you think that Simon Peter had some choice words running through his head when this carpenter, this Galilean said put out into the deep. Not only that, Jesus says toss your nets over on this side – as if the other side was any different. Simon Peter believed our Lord and had to call others to help him haul in the catch.
I know this kind of trust seems difficult but listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 6, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, `What shall we eat?’ or `What shall we drink?’ or `What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all” (see Matthew 6: 32-33). What is He saying, only the pagans worry – he will provide.
Jesus is calling us to be reckless with our love and generosity. All of you gentlemen were reckless with your time, talents and treasures when you were courting your wife. Yeah, I can see it in your faces. And ladies, you were very glad to accept that recklessness. How is it that we are so cheap with the Lord who will never fail us?
Sounds crazy doesn’t it! Maybe this will help. During a transition period between one job to another, my wife and I were praying for the Lord to provide food for us since it was beyond tight. Now, you should understand that we are severe carnivores. We came to a day when the frig and freezer were empty and we looked at each other and panicked trying to figure out where the meat would be coming from – I mean, we had two kids but it would be awkward and just wrong to consider them food! However, less than 30 minutes after having a heated discussion over the Lord’s provision, the UPS man knocked at our door. In his hands was a Styrofoam cooler with what we soon discovered contained 20 pounds of Omaha steaks in it. The note read, “Felt inspired to send this to you.” Okay, I’m dense but I can take a hint.
One more example of how the Lord desires to provide for us. Right after 9/11 I was the Executive Director for a non-profit and unfortunately had to assist in closing it down due to money drying up. This happened the second to last week of November. I had made a promise to my kids that we would get a Christmas tree on this same weekend months ago without knowing the reality of my job situation. When it came time to fulfill my promise, I had a total of $45 dollars to my name with no expectation of pay coming in any time soon. With a full gas tank and $45 we bought that tree. While setting it up that evening, I slipped on an envelope that had been left on my doorstep anonymously. I opened it and to my surprise, it contained 1,500. Utterly astonished, we thanked the Lord for providing for our needs. Now, the next morning I woke up to find an additional $1,500 in an envelope on my car seat with no one taking credit. Not only does the story not end here but that is not even the incredible part! I came home later that day to be handled an envelope by my wife who had a shocked expression on her face. I opened it only to see a note from an individual who had been praying for my family and felt that we needed the enclosed check. He also said that I should not let my arrogance be a stumbling block to his ability to share the Father’s blessings. The check was for $10,000. The combined provision from the Lord held us over to my first paycheck six months later. In fact, it was to the dollar. My family never was in need.
The Lord in his generosity can never be out-done. If you are thinking that you do not have this kind of faith or relationship with Jesus and you want it, approach one of the clergy and let us talk and pray with you. This is the way He intended us to live – to walk by faith, not by sight (see 2 Corinthians 5:7). Therefore, my prayer, our prayer for you today is that as we follow the widows’ example, doing what the Father asks, that we will be reckless for the Lord and confident that the Father will always keep our jars of flour and our jugs full of oil as we serve and place our trust in Him.