Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The first reading today is very moving for me. It is understated as many stories are in the Bible. To understand it better you need to know the background. God had told the prophet Elijah that there will be a draught in the land that would last for several years. This punishment was not arbitrary but reflected the spiritual dryness of Israel at this time. Under king Ahab the nation fell seriously into idolatry and committed many serious sins. To protect Elijah, one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament, God told him to go to a small river on the other side of the Jordan and he could drink from it and ravens would bring him meat in the morning and the afternoon. Rather a usual arrangement, but that is what he did, and he was doing fine until the small river was ran dry.
Our first reading today picks up the story at this point. God sent him to Zarephath, a pagan place, and even more remarkably he was told to look for a widow who would help him. First of all to go to a foreign land is always a challenge. And then to look for a widow who would be financially and emotionally unable to provide him with much support. But Elijah trusted in God’s command and went. When he saw this widow, he asked her to bring him a bit of bread. The woman said I have only a handful of flour and a little oil in my jug, and I was just about to make something from my son and myself and be ready to die.
Elijah is not put off by her response and says to her do as you propose but go make me a little cake and bring it to me and then prepare something for you and your son and as the God of Israel says: the jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry. The widow trusted him and made the cake, and she did not run out of flour or oil until the drought ended.
Maybe you’re also going through something of a dry time in your marriage and your family or at school so it’s good to listen to those whom God has sent you. For sure he wants to help you, and maybe we think a widow or a priest or a friend is not the one you expected. Elijah didn’t not hesitate to go to the widow and to ask her help, no matter how crazy of an idea it was.
What is the point of this story and of the gospel? I think God is saying that no matter how little you have, give it to God and he will multiply and increase it many times over. God is love and he cannot stop loving you, and how he does that is often mysterious. Be attentive to the people God has sent to help you. You may have to come out of your comfort zone to experience this help, this love from God. John Paul II wrote and often said that to discover oneself, I have to make a gift of myself. This is love. This is what God does and we see this in Jesus Christ. Both the widow and Elijah trust in God and take this risk. They were both close to the point of death. The more you give of your time or your money or willingness to change your plans to help someone, the more grace, God’s life, increases in you. However, if you think he has to help you in the way you want to be helped, forget about it. You will miss the opportunity.