My Dear People,
In the First Book of Kings, Elijah travels to Zarephath because God sent him. Upon arriving in the city, Elijah sees a widow gathering firewood. He asks her for a cupful of water and a piece of bread. She tells him she has only a little flour and oil for her and her son. She thinks that after she bakes the cake she and her son will die, because it has not rained for a long time, and they have no way to get more food.
The widow did bake the cake and share it with Elijah. Responding to her generosity, Elijah told her ‘to be not afraid,’ that the Lord, the God of Israel, said, “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.”
Ahab, the King of northern Israel provoked God by building a temple worshipping the pagan god, Baal. Because of Ahab’s sins, Elijah said there would be no rain for three years. It was during the drought that Elijah visited the widow in Zarephath and remained with her until the rains came. Because she trusted Elijah and believed what Elijah said, her flour jar never ran out nor did her jug of oil run dry.
When Christ was with His Apostles near the Temple treasury, they observed the people donating large sums. He noted that a widow only gave a few coins. Christ told His Apostles: “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”
Jesus praises the widows for sacrificing all they had. When we sacrifice and share out of our meager needs rather than our surplus (as we normally do) then, like the widows, we are giving more to God. The value of the offering lies more in the upright intention and generosity of spirit than in the quantity one gives.
St. Francis de Sales comments: “Now as among the treasures of the temple, the poor widow’s mite was much esteemed, so the least little good works, even though performed somewhat coldly and not according to the whole extent of the charity which is in us, are agreeable to God, and esteemed by Him; so that though of themselves they cannot cause any increase in the existing love… yet divine providence, counting on them and, out of his goodness, valuing them, forthwith rewards them with increase of charity for the present and assigns to them a greater heavenly glory for the future.” (Treatise of love of God, book 3, chap 2)
Fr. Vincent Clemente