A Tale of Two Widows: The Widow of Zarephath and the Widow’s Mite



Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio
November 11, 2012
32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

The gospel story of the Widow’s Mite and the Old Testament visit of the prophet Elijah to the Widow of Zarephath are well known bible tales. Two simple but heroic women — who call us to heroic virtue in the midst of everyday life.

The time lag between the two widows in this Sunday’s readings was considerable. Lots of things change in 800 years. But one thing their two societies had in common–they offered neither social security, welfare, 401K’s, nor pension plans. With no husband to provide for them, both widows were literally at the mercy of those around them, totally dependent on the generosity of others.

When you put that together with severe famine, the picture that emerges is rather bleak indeed. So when Elijah meets up with the widow of Zarephath, she confides that she is about to prepare what she expects to be the last meal for herself and her son.

Yet this does not deter Elijah. He boldly asks that she bring food to him first, even before she takes care of her son. This fits neither our normal idea of generosity nor hospitality. Prevailing wisdom says to feed the guest after we’ve fed our kids. Pay the bills first, then give to the poor a portion of your bonus check or tax refund.

But the widow of Zarephath does not give what’s left over. Like the widow in the gospel who puts the famous “mite” into the temple treasury, she gives not out of her surplus, but out of her want. She gives first and asks questions about her own needs later.

It takes not only generosity to do this, but also faith. Perhaps that’s part of the message. These widows knew that God was inviting them to depend upon him for their sustenance, not upon themselves. Therefore, there was no reason to be grasping about what lay in their hands today–since God would provide more daily bread tomorrow. Remember the manna that fell in the desert? The people were forbidden to gather up more than one day’s worth, except the day before the Sabbath, and then only because all work, even gathering manna, was forbidden on the Sabbath day.

We don’t know how the gospel widow fared in the days after she gave her mite to God. But we do know that by special divine intervention, the little bit of oil and flour of the widow of Zarephath lasted day after day until the famine ended in the land. She who had been willing to give a cup of cold water to a prophet certainly received a prophet’s reward.

There is something else the two widows have in common. Often, when people give large sums of money, they are anxious that others notice. The desire to impress men outweighs the desire to delight God. With the scribes of Jesus’ day, it was all about “keeping up appearances.” Fine robes, front seats, and pious public prayers all served to make the case that these were indeed worthy, religious men. The gospel does not clearly say this, but it could be imagined that if they happened to put big bucks in the temple treasury, they’d make sure everyone knew about it.

The gifts of the two widows, on the other hand, were hidden from the view of others. We’d never know about the widow of Zarephath’s kindness and courage were it not for the inspired writer including this story in the first book of Kings. Neither would anyone have noticed the widow dropping a single coin in the basket had Jesus not drawn the apostles’ attention to the incident and commented on its significance. Indeed, we should be reminded that while little about our lives makes the evening news, God sees everything, even the smallest acts of generosity and faith.

The stories of the two widows were recorded, of course, not for their sake. They have received their reward and no earthly notoriety could possibly do them any good now. No, the stories are told again and again for us. They serve as a reminder that ultimately it is not about how much we give, but with how much faith and love we give it.


Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
November 11, 2012

Not a Tip But a Tribute:
Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
A government social worker was visiting New England farms. He had the authority to give federal dollars to poor farmers. He found an elderly widow farming a few acres. Her house was clean but tiny. There did not appear to be much food in the house. The windows had no screens to keep out the summer flies. The exterior needed a paint job. He wondered how she could survive. He asked, “What would you do if the government gave you five hundred dollars?” Her answer was, “I would give it to the poor.”

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Scribes mentioned in today’s gospel were not a religious sect, as were the Pharisees and Sadducees. They were simply men who knew how to read and write–a distinct minority in those days. Illiterate people depended on them for help in preparing documents, such as contracts, and this gave them considerable power and prestige in the community. But it also tempted them to become proud and to consider themselves above the laws that govern ordinary people.

It is important to note that Jesus does not condemn them because they are more learned than most. They deserve condemnation only because their pride leads them to unjust behavior. Being able to control judicial processes enabled them to defraud vulnerable people, such as widows.

A Lesson on Faith for the Year of Faith: 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
As we are still in the beginning of the Year of Faith, our Readings for this Sunday give us a lesson in the practice of faith.

Our First Reading is from 1 Kings 17:10-16, the story of Elijah’s visit to the widow of Zarephath:

Padre Pio’s Mysterious Encounters with Souls from Purgatory
God chose Saint Pio of Pietrelcina to reveal the supernatural life to our tepid era. His supernatural interior life was made visible through his immense suffering and his well-known stigmata. As we move into November and pray for the Poor Souls in Purgatory, we do well to recall a few encounters of Padre Pio with the souls of Purgatory.

Mary’s Special Role for Those in Purgatory
Since November is the month in which we pray for the poor souls in Purgatory, I’d like to offer great hope and consolation to those who are eagerly praying for their departed loved ones. No doubt, our Protestant friends will be taken back a bit since both Purgatory and Mary are controversial for them – and now we are bring them together. Tradition and Scripture state that Mary has a special dominion over the faithful departed. The reason for this is that Our Lady was not required to die since she was preserved from original and actual sin. “The wages of sin is death,” writes the Apostle, and our Lady did not have sin.

Vatican City, 5 October 2012 (VIS) – According to a decree made public today and signed by Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro and Bishop Krzysztof Nykiel, respectively penitentiary major and regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary, Benedict XVI will grant faithful Plenary Indulgence for the occasion of the Year of Faith. The indulgence will be valid from the opening of the Year on 11 October 2012 until its end on 24 November 2013.

In Defense of Intolerance
Today (Oct.25) in the Gospel of Luke Jesus said that He didn’t , in fact, come to bring peace but division. That we could expect that parents would be set against their children and vice versa and we shouldn’t be surprised when that happens. Just yesterday our readings at Mass re-echoed the theme of ‘peace’ at least a dozen times. So how are we to understand what God is saying to us here? Did Jesus indeed come to bring peace on earth, as the angels told the shepherds the night He was born, or does the Word (Jesus) divide sharper than any two-edged sword, as Scripture tells us elsewhere?

Four Lessons from Emmaus Road for the Discouraged and Anxious
We are all likely familiar with the “walk to Emmaus” (Luke 24:13-35) by two of Christ’s disciples the evening of the Resurrection in Luke’s Gospel. These two men, overcome with hopelessness and discouragement, were talking about the incredible events they had witnessed over the previous few days as they were walking to their home village of Emmaus outside of Jerusalem. As I read this Gospel passage in Eucharistic adoration yesterday, I was struck by the parallels with our modern world. These two men were anxious, despondent, and uncertain of their future and had even begun referring to Christ in the past tense. Considering the times we live in, don’t we sometimes act and think like these two disciples?

How Prayer Works, And How It Doesn’t
After posting on prayer in the wake of our experience with Sandy, I got a chance to see it work up close. Two days after writing that post, my wife was struck with symptoms which everyone (GP, EMT, and ER personnel) thought were classic signs of a heart attack for a woman: nausea, pressure/pain in the left side of the chest moving towards the center, fatigue/weakness, and shortness of breath that wasn’t mitigated by an asthma treatment. (And a special message to women out there: familiarize yourself with the symptoms. Often, women don’t get the full Fred Sanford. The signs are different.) She wound up in the ER for a long night of fear and prayer, followed by two days of tests. All along, we hoped it was just something to do with her asthma, but we also feared the worst.

A “Sharing between Friends”: The Art of Mental Prayer
Mental prayer is simply spending time in the presence of God, talking with him about absolutely anything, even about our lack of knowing exactly what to say. It is dealing with our Lord as a close, intimate friend.

Humility – Holy Forgetfulness
In a best case scenario, the sin of pride can make a fool out of you. The worst case scenario is hell, thus its inclusion in the list of the Seven Deadly Sins. The other six are wrath, sloth, greed, lust, envy, and gluttony. It has always seemed to me that pride is the one that can sometimes be hard to pin down. We should work hard and take pride in our work yet not be prideful in it. Celebrate our gifts and talents, but never think we are better than anyone else. So then, how do we draw the line between pride and humility?

Sin or Sanctity?
Sin is monotonous. Sanctity is totally original.

Underneath this observation lurks a deeper truth–that sin is boring. We believe in original sin, but there is nothing original about sin. This is because evil is derivative. Satan cannot create anything, all he can do is twist or destroy or distort what is good. Take any sin at all and you will find that it is a distortion or destruction of something that is good.

(Video) Interview with Fr. Dwight Longenecker –On Writing, C.S. Lewis, and Catholicism
Many men have been christened successors to C.S. Lewis, but Fr. Dwight Longenecker has a strong case. Both men cover similar subjects (faith and morals) in a similar way (crisply and wittily). Both men studied at Oxford University and were devout Anglicans. And just as Lewis brought the lofty ideas of Christian theology down to the common man, so Fr. Dwight does with Catholicism.
ery day at his blog, Standing On My Head, Fr. Dwight deals with heavy topics like atheism, evil, philosophy, and faith, but maintains a simple and humorous style. That’s part of what makes his site one of the Internet’s top 100 most influential Christian blogs.

Winning the Battle for Souls
Deborah Lipsky went through tremendous suffering as a child. Her high-functioning autism elicited the frustration of teachers, along with the ridicule and abuse of classmates, leaving her hurt and isolated — and eventually enraged.

She sought revenge through witchcraft and then full-blown satanism. Her goal was to destroy the Catholic Church, which she saw as responsible for her pain. Yet she found that getting even would exact a price. Despite initial thrills of power, Lipsky became increasingly miserable.

Spirituality: Aristotle, Priests and the Art of Preaching
Okay, yes, Aristotle was a pagan — but you can’t blame the guy for living centuries before the birth of Christ. You can, however, give him credit for laying out the basics of a good speech. Basics, Father Damian Ference argues, that every good priest ought to keep in mind — and in practice.

A Mother’s Promise to the Nation
I know I speak for many, many other mothers out there this morning and I know they would say the same thing I am about to say.
The United States has just elected Barack Obama to a second term as President. News reports tell us that the narrow victory may have hinged on the women’s vote. It appears that the “lady parts” rhetoric about how women’s rights depend on contraception and abortion resonated with enough American women that it affected the election.

Theresa Caputo, Long Island Medium -The position of the Catholic Church concerning Mediums, Channelers & Psychics
Since I have such a great interest in all that concerns authentic mystical phenomenon (as is evident in this extensive website on the Mystics of the Church) I have been asked on several occasions my thoughts concerning Theresa Caputo and the popular TLC television show “Long Island Medium“. While the alleged gifts of psychics or mediums is outside the realm of authentic Christian mysticism and is not within the scope of this website, it is still of interest and concern in that it deals specifically with spiritual realities concerning the afterlife. Also not within the scope of this article is to judge whether Teresa Caputo’s alleged gift of being able to talk to the dead is authentic or fake. The Catholic church is full of occasions over the centuries where Saints and departed souls from purgatory have appeared to various mystics of the Church and other countless individuals, so the possibility does in fact exist within accepted Catholic belief that the spirits of the deceased could come and give messages to Theresa.

New Age Convert: Cari Donaldson
After being raised Presbyterian Cari became involved in the new age movement while attending Michigan State. Cari Donaldson is a wife and homeschooling mother of six residing in Connecticut.
There are parallels between conversion stories and birth stories. Both start with a tiny seed, planted in darkness, result in the birth of a new creation, and involve blood, sweat and tears. And while I resisted writing the story of my conversion to Catholicism for a long time, it seems fitting that when I finally did so, it would be toward the end of my sixth pregnancy.

The Sistine Chapel: A Liturgical Classroom
On October 31, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI observed the 500th anniversary of the Sistine Chapel by offering a prayer—celebrating Vespers beneath Michelangelo’s famed frescoes of biblical stories including, most famously, the Creation of Adam.
The Holy Father called the chapel a “liturgical classroom,” explaining that “It is as if during the liturgical action, the entire symphony of figures comes alive, certainly in the spiritual sense, but also…in the aesthetic sense. The Sistine Chapel, encompassed in prayer, is even more beautiful, more authentic; it reveals all of its treasures.”

Changing Catholic Attitudes about Cremation
Cremation of human remains was prohibited by Catholic authorities for much of the history of the Church. Today, it is not only allowed, but growing in popularity among the faithful, according to Monica Williams, Director of Cemeteries for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Nearly a third of Catholic families in the archdiocese opt for cremation, she said, as more people come to accept it.
“It takes time for family traditions to change,” Williams said. “More people are choosing cremation as an alternative.”

Horus Manure: Debunking the Jesus/Horus Connection
Many atheists, neo-pagans, and other disbelievers of Christianity claim the story of Jesus Christ was borrowed from earlier mythologies. In recent years, a claim has been making the rounds that Jesus is based on the Egyptian god, Horus.
Who was Horus?
Horus is one of the oldest recorded deities in the ancient Egyptian religion. Often depicted as a falcon or a man with a falcon head, Horus was believed to be the god of the sun and of war. Initially he appeared as a local god, but over time the ancient Egyptians came to believe the reigning pharaoh was a manifestation of Horus (cf. Encyclopedia Britannica, “Horus”).

Same-Sex Marriage Ten Years On: Lessons from Canada
The effects of same-sex civil marriage in Canada—restrictions on free speech rights, parental rights in education, and autonomy rights of religious institutions, along with a weakening of the marriage culture—provide lessons for the United States.

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Would recognizing same-sex relationships as marriages be much of a game-changer? What impact, if any, would it have on the public conception of marriage or the state of a nation’s marriage culture?
There has been no shortage of speculation on these questions. But the limited American experience with same-sex marriage to date gives us few concrete answers. So it makes sense to consider the Canadian experience since the first Canadian court established same-sex marriage a decade ago.


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