Widows are visible everywhere in today’s readings. Jesus denounces those scribes who pray impressive prayers but devour widows’ houses. He commends the poor widow who in his view gave far more than the major donors. Jesus doesn’t see her simply as an object of compassion or charity. She, like the widow of Zarephath who shares her last bit of food with Elijah, does something of great importance.
Readings and Psalm
- 1 Kings 17:8-16
God feeds Elijah and the widow at Zarephath
- Psalm 146
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down. (Ps. 146:8)
- Hebrews 9:24-28
The once for all sacrifice of Christ
- Mark 12:38-44
A widow’s generosity reveals the hypocrisy of the scribes
First Reading: 1 Kings 17:8-16This chapter begins the story of Elijah. God sends a drought on Israel because of the sins of King Ahab. This passage depicts God’s saving acts not only on behalf of Elijah, but also on behalf of those who are associated with the prophet, even a foreigner, the widow of Zarephath.8The word of the Lord came to [Elijah,] saying, 9“Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” 10So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.” 11As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” 12But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” 13Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. 14For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.” 15She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. 16The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.
Psalm: Psalm 146The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down. (Ps. 146:8)1Hal- | lelujah!
Praise the Lord, | O my soul!
2I will praise the Lord as long | as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I | have my being.
3Put not your | trust in rulers,
in mortals in whom there | is no help.
4When they breathe their last, they re- | turn to earth,
and in that day | their thoughts perish.
5Happy are they who have the God of Jacob | for their help,
whose hope is in the | Lord their God;
6who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that | is in them;
who keeps promis- | es forever;
7who gives justice to those who are oppressed, and food to | those who hunger.
The Lord sets the | captive free.
8The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; the Lord lifts up those who | are bowed down;
the Lord| loves the righteous.
9The Lord cares | for the stranger;
the Lord sustains the orphan and widow, but frustrates the way | of the wicked.
10The Lord shall | reign forever,
your God, O Zion, throughout all generations. | Hallelujah!
Second Reading: Hebrews 9:24-28The letter to the Hebrews describes Christ as a high priest who offers himself as a sacrifice for our sin. Christ does not die again and again each year. He died once, is alive with God, and will reveal himself on the last day.24Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own; 26for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment, 28so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
Gospel: Mark 12:38-44After engaging in a series of public arguments with religious leaders in the temple, Jesus contrasts the proud and oppressive ways of those leaders with the sacrificial humility and poverty of the widow.38As [Jesus] taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! 40They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
41He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”