The prophet Elijah – in the first reading at Mass on Sunday, the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – seemed to have no hesitation in asking the widow for food, even when he knew how little she had. He asked inviting her to trust in God, and able to do this with authenticity and in communion with her, because he was himself doing the same thing. As she hungered and went without so had he, so did he, trusting in God’s faithfulness, in God’s providence.
Elijah the Prophet went off to Sidon. And when he reached the city gate, there was a widow gathering sticks; addressing her he said, ‘Please bring me a little water in a vessel for me to drink.’
She was setting off to bring it when he called after her. ‘Please’ he said ‘bring me a scrap of bread in your hand.’
‘As the Lord your God lives,’ she replied ‘I have no baked bread, but only a handful of meal in a jar and a little oil in a jug; I am just gathering a stick or two to go and prepare this for myself and my son to eat, and then we shall die.’
But Elijah said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, go and do as you have said; but first make a little scone of it for me and bring it to me, and then make some for yourself and for your son. For thus the Lord speaks, the God of Israel:
“Jar of meal shall not be spent,
jug of oil shall not be emptied,
before the day when the Lord sends
rain on the face of the earth.”’
The woman went and did as Elijah told her and they ate the food, she, himself and her son. The jar of meal was not spent nor the jug of oil emptied, just as the Lord had foretold through Elijah.
1 Kings 17:10-16
The woman of Sidon receives the gift of faith and trust in God, even as she shares her little with the prophet. Or rather, for her trust and her generosity are great, as she gives to the prophet her all – not only what she had to eat but all her son had to eat.
In the Gospel Jesus noted how most who give give from what they have left over. It is exceptional to give in a way that impoverishes.
The phrase ‘In God we trust’ has a certain civic and political currency in the West.
- When do we trust in God?
- How and why?
Window of Dumbarton Methodist Church, Washington, DC. (c) 2009, Allen Morris.