Liturgical Year B

32nd Week in Ordinary Time; Impulsive

Have you heard that hunger is the best condiment (flavouring)? Still, I know one as good as hunger – homesickness. Living away from my country for years many times I had experience of being at home after tasting some traditional Croatian dish or drink. It’s funny, but this Sunday is also the feast of St. Martin of Tours. This Roman soldier, born in Pannonia (where I come from) in about 316, after being baptized left the army and became a monk and a very famous bishop in Tours, France. He is well known mostly by the event when he showed mercy to one beggar and gave him a half of his military cloak. Anyhow, this is an important feast in my family and parish so I can instantly imagine my mother and grandmother preparing all those nice cakes we used to have for this special day. I can even smell them.

Both of these feelings, hunger and homesickness, Prophet Elijah had in the strange land of Sidon when he saw a poor widow at the city gate. He learned from his past experiences that God has his own special ways to feed him (for months he was fed by a raven at the Kelt spring) but still you must have a lot of faith to go and ask one poor widow, in the time of drought, to feed you for an indeterminate time. The Elijah story is one of the most powerful and inspiring stories of the whole Old Testament and if you are not very familiar with this part of the Bible I suggest you just start with this story, especially if you are a man. Every man will finally find God by the help of a “weak” woman (persecuted by “the powerful” one) in the sound of a low whisper (1 Kings 19,12).

Widows are quite often mentioned in the Bible. They are a symbol of total poverty because in patriarchal society of that time women were generally regarded as second-class persons. Without help and protection of a husband they were mostly condemned to extreme poverty. Having that in mind we can better understand how powerful Jesus message was in the eyes of his contemporaries. This is not the first time that Jesus emphasizes the value of women. Just remember a prostitute or a woman caught in adultery. But here the message is even stronger. A poor widow gives a lot more in the eyes of God than the pious and wealthy Pharisees.

It is clear to me that this message can be transferred to the present church, too. Maybe we can summarise it in the following way. The Church is not a social NGO which must think only of the ways how renew its funds. Moreover, it isn’t a priest’s business which provides him a good life. Today’s gospel message concerns every priest but I can’t respond to it neither in the name of the Holy Father, your bishop or your local parish priest. I can only kneel down before the poor among you for myself (although, I’m not sure that they have computers and other electronic gadgets to read all this) and say “Thank you”: I’m grateful for your penny from which I live and feed myself and, I hope at least, I proclaim our Lord who can’t be bought for any money but who can make you be rich in his love and mercy.”

Dublin, 2012.

09.11.2012.Author: p. Antun Volenik, SJ
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