November 8, 2015 - 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church
Today could be called Widow’s Sunday. Widows are at the center of both the reading from the first book of Kings and the gospel of Mark.
Both Elijah and Jesus celebrate the generosity of these women who have so little, and yet, give so much.
Widows in our assembly and around the world are doing this very thing every day. They act with grace and courage under desperate circumstances and often without fanfare.
Since the time of the early church, the Christian mission has been powered by the extraordinary energy of widows.
In the first three centuries, the church formally recognized a quasi-religious status of widowhood in a ranking just below the priests.
Although we no longer speak of a consecrated order of widows, they still work tirelessly in our communities, doing what they can from the goodness in their hearts.
Today we celebrate them and the good work they do. Today we notice them. After all, that’s what the gospel is about. It’s about noticing.
It’s not about virtue. It’s not about a generous widow. Rather, it is about what Jesus does. He notices her. His seasoned eye does not take in the high and mighty who have captured everyone else’s attention.
No, he picks out someone who has been overlooked by everyone else. He observes this little, invisible, nondescript human being from the bottom of the social ladder.
He notices her quiet act of fidelity, kindness and generosity. This is what makes her different. He notices her and comments about it.
A priest was visiting a family whose father was a widower and had Alzheimer’s. His daughter was also a widow. She was taking care of her father. It was not easy and she struggled a great deal.
As the priest was leaving, she walked him to the car and said,“I don’t know how much longer I can do this. It’s awfully hard going after him in the middle of the night when he wanders off.
“And I don’t know how much longer I can lift him or take him to the bathroom. It’s very hard and I’m getting tired.”
The priest responded, “I don’t how you do it, but I know somehow you will continue to do it until it isn’t needed anymore.” Later the priest reflected on this poor widow. Her father unaware of her devotion.
This poor widow was giving all she had and nobody really noticed it. Except the one who counts. Jesus noticed.
An old priest tells another story about a widow. He tells that he is a priest because of this widow.
“Who was she?” we might ask, a notable citizen, a treasured teacher? No. She was a little woman who always sat near him in church on Sundays.
He would settle in, trying to get through a boring homily and the old widow would smile at him and quietly reach into her purse and pull of a piece of the best tasting chocolate in the world.
She would pass it to him. She always had it there and always had it for him. For the boy, this generosity was his experience of church and he says he is a priest today because of the widow’s actions.
The old widow seemed to just blend into the scenery. No one every noticed her. But two people did. A little boy who became a marvelous priest. And Jesus.
Catherine Doherty, who gave her life in service to the poor, noticed a poor widow as well and tells this story.
I remember her very well. Every Saturday, rain or shine, cold or hot, she would come through the door of our House of Hospitality. After a few words of greeting, show would lay on my desk in a tidy row, four dirty pennies.
She would explain, almost in a whisper, that this was all she had left of her pay to give to Christ in the poor. Then, with a little smile and a bow, she would ask for our prayers.
She was a widow who earned a living by scrubbing office floors at night. Her name was Martha. She brought her four pennies every week for four years. Then one Saturday she did not come.
She died and had been buried in an unmarked grave in a potter’s field. While no one else seemed to notice this poor old widow, you can be sure Jesus did.
So you see, our good deeds, however small, are observed, cherished and remembered. No one else may know about them or comment on them or notice them. But you can be sure of one thing. Jesus notices.
We count. What we do counts. And most importantly, Jesus notices.