“Can anyone understand how it is to have lived in the White House and then, suddenly, to be living alone as the President's widow?”Those words from Jackie Kennedy remind us the terrible price that widows pay, and many of you I know could indeed answer her question of what it is like to live one day with your spouse (or partner) and the next, be living alone.
Today, we find three faithful widows in our stories. We have Ruth & Naomi in our first two readings and an unnamed widow at the treasury in the Gospel.
You noticed I added a reading from Ruth today and skipped Hebrews. Last week we would have read the first chapter of Ruth, but it was All Saints and we used that day’s readings. So I decided to include it today because it helps set the scene for what we heard in chapter 3 of the book of Ruth, our second reading (you can read Hebrews at home at your leisure, quiz next week.).
So we know that there was a famine in Israel, so Elimelech and Naomi with their two sons go to the land of Moab. Elimelech dies and leaves Naomi a widow with two sons who then marry Moabite wives. Ten years later, her sons die and the famine in Israel is over, so Naomi plans on returning to her homeland, but graciously prays for Orpah and Ruth to return to their people and to their gods. But Ruth refuses to let Noami go…
"Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; Where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die-- there will I be buried. May the LORD do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!"And with that faithful statement, Naomi and Ruth returned to the land of Israel. But Naomi, as we heard in our second reading, was concerned that Ruth should not stay widowed, so seeing an eligible kinsman, she tells Ruth to seek out Boaz, and in very euphemistic words to offer herself to him and they indeed become husband and wife.
So Ruth the Moabite, faithful to Naomi & Boaz would conceive Obed who would be the father of Jesse, Jesse would be the father of David, & down the line to Jesus. Our God not only works with the chosen people of Israel but with the faithful of every generation and every people.
Such faithfulness is what our Bible says about our relationships to each other and to God. Ruth and Noami being wonderful examples of this in their widowhood and in their lives!
Jesus in the Gospel understood the difficulty of life that many widows lived, for we might not have to worry about scribes, but we sure do have to worry about banks and predatory people and lenders who devour widow’s houses today and yet like to be treated with honor and privilege.
But honor does not lie in their hearts… so Jesus at the treasury points out to the disciples and to us, the widow’s mite as it used to be called, for Jesus said:
“Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For 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.”The widow here is faithful to her giving and Jesus sees that her gift comes from the heart. The real "honor" in giving is not the amount but what compels us to give in the first place.
As we begin our stewardship season together, it is important for us to bear in mind the widow’s mite and a heart that gives.
For in exalting the gift of the poor widow, Jesus wants us to realize that, in the economy of God, numbers are not the true value of giving. It is what we give from our want, not from our extra, that speaks of what we truly value, what good we truly want to accomplish, what we want our lives and world to be. What we give to this parish is part of our hopes for this world and for our lives together.
In the Gospel, it is not the measure of the gift but the measure of the love, selflessness and commitment that directs the gift that is great before God. We see that in the story of Ruth & Naomi and we heard it proclaimed by Jesus in the Gospel, and so it is for all of us.
For Christ calls us not to seek greater things or talents to astound the world but for greater love and selflessness with which to enrich the world.
May we through what we give enrich the mission and ministry of our parish so that in God’s love we can welcome everyone, stranger and friend alike, on the journey of faith. Amen.