In the readings for Sunday, Nov. 11, God tells us that when we give from our poverty, we will never be empty.
by Jen Schlameuss-Perry
1 Kings 17:10-16
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.
Praise the Lord, my soul!
Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself, that he might now appear before God on our behalf.
“Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury.”
You can read the full text of this Sunday’s readings here:
Last week’s readings were about how we should love God with our whole selves, and love one another as ourselves. This week, the theme is expanded and made more concrete as it speaks directly to our response to those experiencing material need.
Our first reading is a story about Elijah, the greatest prophet in Hebrew tradition, who was in exile and danger from King Ahab and his pagan wife, Jezebel. There was a three-year drought at the time, brought on by Ahab’s disobedience to God. Ahab allowed Jezebel to worship false gods in the Temple, and was killing the prophets and priests of the God of Israel. The drought was a warning to straighten up and fly right. She didn’t heed it and came to a bad end.
In the meantime, everyone else was suffering. Elijah asked a poor widow who was down to her last meal for herself and her son to share their food with him. She, even in her fear and poverty, did share with him. As a result, her food never ran out, and she and her son were cared for throughout the drought.
Of course, we receive the most perfect sacrifice in the offering that Jesus made of himself on the cross. He sacrificed his safety and and life for us, and he got eternal glory, honor and authority back. He promises that our sacrifices will be rewarded, too.
The Gospel contains a warning and an example. Jesus was warning his disciples about those who use their position to gain honor for themselves and to take advantage of the poor to “devour the houses of widows.” While he was talking, a widow walked by the Temple and put a tiny bit of change into the collection. Jesus remarks that her offering meant more than the bags of money the rich people put in because it came from her poverty, rather than her excess. This is what we are called to do. We are urged to share from our poverty, whether that’s poverty of material wealth, time, energy … whatever we have to offer. We trust that whatever we give, God will take care of us as he did the widow of Zarephath and will honor our gifts as he did the widow in the Temple.
What things do you have that you can share with others?
The widow in the first reading shared her very last food with Elijah, trusting in God. The widow from the Gospel shared her last money with the people of God, also trusting in God. These were vulnerable women — the ones that Jewish law said should be taken care of by the community — not the other way around. Would I be so courageous to share the last of my goods with someone who needs it? Would I consider that to be a foolish thing? If you could relate the last bit of flour or the last two coins to what you have, what would it be?
Jesus made a perfect sacrifice, taking the priestly role out of the temple and onto the cross. What is the most perfect sacrifice you can make in your life? What are the most profound sacrifices others have made for you.
Today’s readings focus on widows. Losing a spouse can be a very lonely and heartbreaking experience. Do you know any widows or widowers who could use a friendly visit? Take some of your family time this week to reach out to someone who needs it.
A little lectio
The ancient practice of prayerfully reflecting on bits of Scripture is known as lectio divina. Want to try it out with your family? Head over to Lectio Divina for Kids to find out how to adapt this prayer practice for your kids.
A little Bible study
Want to do a little Bible study with your kids? Here are some tips:
- During Ordinary Time, the Church pairs the Old Testament and New Testament readings in a way that each sheds light on the other. Ask your kids to look for the common theme connecting the two readings. (Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it is subtle.) How does the “dialogue” between the readings help you understand them better?
- Get a New American Bible, Revised Edition, and take a look at the footnotes for these readings. How do they change your understanding of what is going on?
- Take a look at the context for the readings—what happens before, or after?
- Read the NABRE’s introduction to the book of the Bible that the readings are taken from. How does that help you understand the readings?
- If you don’t have a copy of the NABRE at home, you can view it online at the USCCB website at the Daily Readings web page. (The link will take you to today’s reading; click forward or backward on the dates to get to Sunday’s readings.)
For even more resources for breaking open this Sunday’s readings, head over to The Sunday Website.
The image for Breaking Open the Word at Home is taken from a 17th century illuminated manuscript by an anonymous (but very talented) artist. The text is from the beginning of the Book of Sirach, chapter 1, verses 1-12, which begins: “All wisdom is from the Lord and remains with him forever.”