32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Fr. Ike Udoh, SJ

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Kings 17:10-16 | Hebrews 9:24-28 | Mark 12:38-44

Our first reading about Elijah and the widow of Zarephath was used as an object lesson by Jesus in his first sermon at his own hometown in Nazareth.  He spoke about his mission to bring good news to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted, to set prisoners free.  But that word did not really find a welcome in the hearts of his own, because they took Jesus out to throw him off a cliff.  Jesus said a prophet is not accepted in his own native place, because oftentimes they must point out the reality of the discrepancy between God’s vision of justice for the poor, and our indifference to their plight, our complacency with the status quo, our denial of the responsibility to live God’s word, to put our faith in action.  One of the martyrs we celebrate today says, do everything possible so that liberty is victorious over oppression, justice over injustice, love over hate.  That fight for justice often entails giving until it hurts, giving even your own life away.  The story of Elijah and the widow at Zarephath reveals what faith in action looks like.

Faith in action looks like hospitality.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.  Elijah appears seemingly out of nowhere and is in need and makes a demand on the widow.  She meets his first need for water.  Then he even makes a further demand, and in a few words the widow reveals, I have reached my limit, literally.  This is the end of the road for me.  I have nothing left in the tank, nothing left to eat, no hope, but to await death.  This is a lived reality for some 1 billion people globally who live in extreme poverty.  Life for the poor is characterized by constant limit situations for lack of basics for survival.  Occasionally we may experience our own limit-situations.  Coming back to a home completely destroyed by the fires here in Los Angeles, being enveloped in the deep darkness of depression, persons dealing with the suicide of a child, the vitriol, hateful rhetoric and snuffing out of the life of the victims in Thousand Oaks, marriages and families that are tottering on the brink of divorce and being broken up.  The widow of Zarephath teaches us how to respond in our limit situations.  We can be gripped by fear, we can even become frozen and incapacitated, or we can respond by faith in God’s word, faith in our vows, faith in the promise of a nation.  While at her wits end, in the midst of her last meal, the widow demonstrates her faith in God’s promise by giving first to meet the needs of the prophet.  The word of God awakens and renews her hope, inspiring her to forget herself in service of others. The widow in the gospel demonstrates her faith as well, offering her very last penny to the Lord.  This willingness to give until it hurts, to leave where you are to where God is calling like Abraham even though you do not know where, to lay down your life that others might live, to put our gifts, talents and treasure at the service of others, reveals the generosity and love of God who so loved us that he gave his only Son.

That is why the church speaks of God’s preferential option for the poor, because he chose solidarity with us to reveal our human dignity, he who was rich became poor, he who knew no sin became sin for us, and when he knew he was returning to the glory of the Father, he wrapped a towel around his waste and washed the feet of his disciples.  What this looks like for our married couples who may be going through difficulties, is that you chose to love.  Be the first to not only say but show, “I love you, I forgive you, I am sorry.”  Children and young ones, deny yourself time on the computer, time on your cell phone, and spend it with your parents.  Be the first to show kindness to your brothers and sisters.  To all of us, join our Blessed Sacrament family to care for the homeless through The Center, participate in the giving Tree to help our needy families.  Instead of bugging your parents for Christmas gifts, this year, give it to another kid who is struggling to survive.  We may be passing through a dark time, but if we just light a candle by our kindness, by our solidarity with the poor, by fighting for justice, by choosing to love again, by choosing to be civil and respectful, we can build a civilization of love, we can make God’s vision become a reality here and now. Place all that you have and are in the hands of the unlimited one, that he may bless, break, and meet the multiplicity of needs.  I end with this poem about Love by May Sarton.

Fragile as a spider’s web

Hanging in space

Between tall grasses,

It is torn again and again.

A passing dog

Or simply the wind can do it.

Several times a day

I gather myself together

And spin it again.

Spiders are patient weavers.

They never give up.

And who knows

What keeps them at it?

Hunger, no doubt,

And hope.

Our first reading about Elijah and the widow of Zarephath was used as an object lesson by Jesus in his first sermon at his own hometown in Nazareth.  He spoke about his mission to bring good news to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted, to set prisoners free.  But that word did not really find a welcome in the hearts of his own, because they took Jesus out to throw him off a cliff.  Jesus said a prophet is not accepted in his own native place, because oftentimes they must point out the reality of the discrepancy between God’s vision of justice for the poor, and our indifference to their plight, our complacency with the status quo, our denial of the responsibility to live God’s word, to put our faith in action.  One of the martyrs we celebrate today says, do everything possible so that liberty is victorious over oppression, justice over injustice, love over hate.  That fight for justice often entails giving until it hurts, giving even your own life away.  The story of Elijah and the widow at Zarephath reveals what faith in action looks like.

Faith in action looks like hospitality.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.  Elijah appears seemingly out of nowhere and is in need and makes a demand on the widow.  She meets his first need for water.  Then he even makes a further demand, and in a few words the widow reveals, I have reached my limit, literally.  This is the end of the road for me.  I have nothing left in the tank, nothing left to eat, no hope, but to await death.  This is a lived reality for some 1 billion people globally who live in extreme poverty.  Life for the poor is characterized by constant limit situations for lack of basics for survival.  Occasionally we may experience our own limit-situations.  Coming back to a home completely destroyed by the fires here in Los Angeles, being enveloped in the deep darkness of depression, persons dealing with the suicide of a child, the vitriol, hateful rhetoric and snuffing out of the life of the victims in Thousand Oaks, marriages and families that are tottering on the brink of divorce and being broken up.  The widow of Zarephath teaches us how to respond in our limit situations.  We can be gripped by fear, we can even become frozen and incapacitated, or we can respond by faith in God’s word, faith in our vows, faith in the promise of a nation.  While at her wits end, in the midst of her last meal, the widow demonstrates her faith in God’s promise by giving first to meet the needs of the prophet.  The word of God awakens and renews her hope, inspiring her to forget herself in service of others. The widow in the gospel demonstrates her faith as well, offering her very last penny to the Lord.  This willingness to give until it hurts, to leave where you are to where God is calling like Abraham even though you do not know where, to lay down your life that others might live, to put our gifts, talents and treasure at the service of others, reveals the generosity and love of God who so loved us that he gave his only Son.

That is why the church speaks of God’s preferential option for the poor, because he chose solidarity with us to reveal our human dignity, he who was rich became poor, he who knew no sin became sin for us, and when he knew he was returning to the glory of the Father, he wrapped a towel around his waste and washed the feet of his disciples.  What this looks like for our married couples who may be going through difficulties, is that you chose to love.  Be the first to not only say but show, “I love you, I forgive you, I am sorry.”  Children and young ones, deny yourself time on the computer, time on your cell phone, and spend it with your parents.  Be the first to show kindness to your brothers and sisters.  To all of us, join our Blessed Sacrament family to care for the homeless through The Center, participate in the giving Tree to help our needy families.  Instead of bugging your parents for Christmas gifts, this year, give it to another kid who is struggling to survive.  We may be passing through a dark time, but if we just light a candle by our kindness, by our solidarity with the poor, by fighting for justice, by choosing to love again, by choosing to be civil and respectful, we can build a civilization of love, we can make God’s vision become a reality here and now. Place all that you have and are in the hands of the unlimited one, that he may bless, break, and meet the multiplicity of needs.  I end with this poem about Love by May Sarton.

Fragile as a spider’s web

Hanging in space

Between tall grasses,

It is torn again and again.

A passing dog

Or simply the wind can do it.

Several times a day

I gather myself together

And spin it again.

Spiders are patient weavers.

They never give up.

And who knows

What keeps them at it?

Hunger, no doubt,

And hope.