Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Lary Pearce, OHC
RCL - Proper 27 B - Sunday 08 November 2009
1 Kings 17:8-16
The Transformation of the Widow's Mite
Today’s readings provide us with interesting ideas about the possibility of doing God’s will. In the Old Testament Lesson a great prophet assures a seemingly powerless woman that she too can be an instrument of God’s will. In the Gospel Jesus says that in the eyes of God the poor widow who gives her all for God’s glory does more than the rich man who gives to build up his own reputation. The epistle teaches that Christ himself intercedes in heaven for the honest giver.
Here Elijah is God’s messenger who assures the destitute widow of God’s providence. Elijah assures the widow with whom he wishes to stay that if she takes him in even though there is a major famine in progress, her jar of meal would not be consumed and her jug of oil would not be emptied until the day when the lord sent rain and fresh crops. What was required was that she trust in providence of God to fulfill her needs. She trusted and her supplies did not run out. This reminds me of the miracle of the loaves and fishes which fed the 5,000.
Christ has entered into a sanctuary not made by human hands to appear before the presence of God on our behalf. God himself enters into eternity to plead for us. Paul assures believers that things will be all right in eternity; his assurance does not extend to this world. The emphasis here is on the necessity of trust in God.
When Jesus encountered the poor widow who contributed her “mite” there was a big fund raising campaign underway. The king, Herod the Great started constructed of a new temple probably in 19 B.C. Construction was still underway in 33 A.D. Herod the Great was the author of the plan to replace the second temple which had been built 500 years earlier after the return from the Babylonian captivity. Herod, under Roman control, was a rich and powerful client king who ruled over much of the eastern Mediterranean. Powerful as he was, he was dependent on Rome. He was a paranoid ruler, willing to do anything rather than be assassinated. He even had his own son executed. One Roman wit said that he would rather be Herod’s pig than his son. Because Herod probably wouldn’t eat pork, the pig was less likely to be killed than his son. Herod the Great died in 4 B.C.; his death was particularly disgusting referred to guardedly as “Herod’s Evil.” His son Herod Antipas was still at work on the temple in Jesus time.
The widow poor as she was wanted to do what she could for the glory of God. Unlike the wealthy and powerful she gave everything she had to live on. Her gift was of greater merit than those of people wealthier than she. She gave everything; the wealthy gave only part. In God’s eyes her gift was of infinite value and contributed the building up of the Kingdom of God. The gifts of the wealthy and powerful contributed to the building up the earthly kingdom and, though good in themselves, were of finite value and would eventually perish. In fact Herod’s new temple was completely destroyed in 70 A.D. when the Romans suppressed the First Jewish Revolt. It didn’t last long.
When I think of the dichotomy between the early temple and the heavenly temple, I think of Mt. Calvary, the Order’s beautiful monastery in Santa Barbara. The building and its location were a place that was of almost other worldly beauty. Many holy things happened there and there were many holy people there. One of those holy people was Fr. Joseph Parsell, who spent most of his life as a monk and a missionary in Liberia. I believe he gave his all and I know absolutely that to his last breath he died loving Liberia and the Liberians. The Ghanaians affectionately called him “Fr. Buffy. He died in Santa Barbara. There was a wonderful memorial service for him at Mt. Calvary. Bishop Edward Neuville, then Bishop of Liberia, preached at the service. It was a holy event and commemorated a holy life of eternal value.
Mt. Calvary Monastery was a beautiful place where many holy things happened. When I think of the fire that completely destroyed it about a year ago, I still grieve. However, I trust in God’s mercy, and with Julian of Norwich I believe that on the last day God will work a great wonder, and “All will be well.”