|Sr. Mary Beth Ingham|
As we come to the end of our assembly this year, two women join us. Together, they witness for us the power of ‘a life of most pure and perfect charity.’ They each model for us what self-gift can look like, and how in an abundance of generosity life enters the world.
Prior to this gathering, I had not thought of these two women as images of God, or even images of Jesus, but today I am struck by their actions as an ‘incarnation’ and an invitation – love made flesh, love poured out, a genuine kenosis – self-emptying love. Sr. Benedicte de Vaublanc, a sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery, believes that Fr. Medaille wrote the Eucharistic Letter after he was asked to step back from the foundation in Le Puy and elsewhere, after he had to ‘divest’ of his deepest dream, after he knew what it meant to give everything away. It was only then that he could meditate on the Eucharist as the sacrament of absolute self-gift, the sacrament of God’s abundant love, the sacrament of love poured out for the sake of the world.
We see a similar insight coming from our readings today. These two women are both widows, they have no status in their society, and they live in a world very like our own: where hunger stalks many cultures, where ecological disaster seriously threatens whole populations, where the nameless and the powerless have so little. And despite all this, like the people of Tijuana, in the midst of their scarcity, they find the courage to be generous. They recognize that someone needs their help, someone whose needs are greater than their own. Today these women challenge me and perhaps all of us toward greater and greater faith-filled generosity.
The widow who helps Elijah is not afraid to speak her truth to someone more powerful than she. He is the one, after all, who called down the drought upon the land… he is responsible for her suffering. And yet, she is gracious and generous in her willingness to share her bread, handing over all she has. For at this moment, in her eyes, he is more needy than she. And, as we know, her generosity is repaid with the hundredfold, her jar never goes empty. She has enough to live on.
The widow of Mark’s gospel is even less known to us. We don’t even know where she comes from or why she puts her two coins into the basket. Yet she, like Jesus, is seized by love and hands over everything, even the little she has to live on. As she does this, she relies completely on God’s abundant love to sustain her into the future. She relies, as the psalmist says, on the Lord and has nothing to fear.
These women are models for us today: models of divine love, models of self-gift, models of generosity in the face of scarcity. How am I, how are we called to imitate them? Where are the needy around us? Where are the needs in our world? How can we follow their example of abundant love and be sacraments of divine generosity in a world so driven by competition and consumption? As we continue our liturgy, may we pray that we might be so transformed as to become Eucharist for one another and for the world. May we continue to encourage one another and be strengthened by God’s love in our words and in our deeds. May we never forget that our faithful God is a God of abundant love who will not allow our jars to go empty, so long as we remember who we are and who we are called to be for those who suffer, for the outcast, for the stranger, for the poor. And may our actions be bread and life for the world.