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June 12, 2018 - Learning from a Widow & a Stranger

Tuesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

We mere mortals are called by Jesus in the text from Matthew today to be not only the salt of the earth but the light of the world and a city on a hill. That is such a tall order. How are we to do that? Perhaps the poor widow in the Old Testament text can help.

As we know, widows and orphans were among the most vulnerable people in biblical times. And for the same obvious reason—they often didn’t have anyone upon whom they could depend or turn to for support. And in this story the poverty and vulnerability of the widow could not be more clear. She has no bread and only a handful of flour and a little bit of oil. Importantly, it’s not that she just happens to be low on flour and oil at the time. That little bit of flour is all she has, and she has no hope of getting more. She is afraid, and rightly so. She expects to starve to death and soon. But Elijah tells her not to be afraid. And so she obeys his command and turns that last handful of flour and oil into a bit of bread for her visitor, herself, and her son. And God is good. For the next year, she has all the flour and oil she needs to feed herself and her son, thanks to God.

At least two lessons can be drawn from this widow. The first is about hospitality. God blesses us when we show hospitality, especially when doing so poses a big challenge to us. Sometimes our challenge is like the widow’s—maybe we don’t have much in our pantry at the time or are feeling financial pressures. Can we still find a way to share? God surely wants us to and rewards us in ways we cannot possibly anticipate when we do.

Another lesson is about fear. These days there are so many reasons to be afraid. Every day, we open the paper (or, even worse, receive constant news alerts on our phones) and learn of another mortal threat—a school shooting, the opioid crisis, rising suicide rates, fierce storms made worse by climate change, and so much more. Perhaps a bit like that widow we too feel, and for good reason, that our wellbeing and safety are not secure. While we cannot and should not ignore real threats to our wellbeing and safety, we are called beyond fear to faith.

The other day when I was dropping off a few items of clothing I no longer need to Saint Vincent Depaul’s thrift store, a man who looked as though life had been very hard on him held the door open for me. As I walked through the door and thanked him, he announced with great enthusiasm that he opens the door for anyone; he doesn’t care how suspect they look. Amen, brother. We are salt and light when we live in generosity and not in fear. Pretty simple and a very big deal.

- Sue Trollinger