Summary: God wants us to help those with the fewest of resources, to learn from them and we get blessed.
Fr. John Haughey, S.J., notes that Jesus, who spoke Aramaic, has an interesting word for money: mammon, which means “that in which you put your trust."
Some people put their trust in their money, others in their looks, others in their muscles, their brains, their careers, house or possessions. Jesus' judgment on these sources of trust is that they are untrustworthy; they are not worthy of our trust.
Jesus also observed that we can have several objects of trust, God and various other forms of trust.
But "no one can serve two masters. You will either hate one and love the other or be attentive to one and despise the other. You cannot give yourself to God and money" (Matt 6:24).
What Jesus contradicts here is the idea that multiple objects of trust will work. Someone with a both/and attitude has not yet taken in the point of the Gospel.
Having multiple objects of trust is a kind of illness that has discernable symptoms. One of these is having an unshakable, low-grade anxiety.
If my trust is not deeply rooted in God, like the two widows in our Readings today, then I have to conduct my life as if I were a King or Queen, since it all depends on me.
Another symptom of having multiple objects of trust is that we become so taken up with self-provision that we become unaware of others and their needs, like the widow in our Gospel today.
2. You see, fundraisers and stewardship leaders love this widow. Dutifully sitting at home all year, spending her time trying to scrape together another two pennies. We are happy to have her come to church once a year. We’ll even arrange a ride for her if we have to.
The reality, of course, is that she lives in a place with a mostly empty cupboard, with the electricity and water turned off.
She is our responsibility. Scripture abounds with exhortations to protect the widow, etc.
The other widow in our First Reading this Sunday was not in any better shape. She was about to eat her last meal with her son during a time of starvation.
We have to ask why did God send this prophet to seek nourishment from the poorest of the poor?
It’s because God wants us to help those with the fewest of resources, to learn from them. We get blessed. We should not underestimate the power of our baptism—we share as Priest, Prophet, and King—in Christ. We learn prophetically by helping the poor as God speaks to us from the experience.
3. Lastly, the way to discover the widow’s true role in the Gospel passage is by her silence.
The widow’s silent actions participate in the realm of that which is unheard and unseen in the dominant systems of power in a community.
One must develop the ability to listen to what is unheard to understand the honor which Jesus gives to her.
She becomes a symbol of unselfish generosity and trust and her total self-giving presupposes trust in God and his provisions.
In fact, as St. Jerome notes, the widow is greater than all the men of Israel.
The attitude of self-forgetfulness, surrender, total commitment, gratitude, and trust in God to provide one’s needs.
A concluding story by Randy Leckliter who tells the story of a man who got lost in the desert. After wandering around for a long time, suffering from a severely parched throat, he spotted a little shack in the distance. He made his way over to the shack and found a hand operated, heavy cast iron water pump with a small jug of water sitting next to it.
A note was attached to the jug that read: “Pour all the water into the top of the pump to prime it, if you do this you will get all the water you need.” Back then, you always had to fill the pump with water (called priming the pump) before operating the pump. You prime the pump by pouring water in the top of the pump until it flows out of the spout.
So, now the thirsty man had to make one of two choices:
(1). He could trust the note and pour the water into the pump and if it worked he would have all the water he needed. However, if it didn't work he would still be thirsty, and he might die.
(2). He could choose to drink the water in the jug and get immediate satisfaction. The problem with this decision was that the jug might not contain enough water to meet his needs, and he still might die.
After thinking about it the man decided to risk it. He poured the entire jug into the pump and began working the handle. At first nothing happened, and he began to grow anxious. But he kept pumping and soon water started coming out. In fact, so much water came out that he drank all he wanted, took a shower, and filled every container he could find with the life-sustaining fluid. Because he was willing to give up immediate satisfaction and trust the note, he had all the water he needed. Now the note also said: “After you have finished, please refill the jug for the next traveler.” The man refilled the jug and added to the note: “Please prime the pump, believe me it works!”