"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
Nov. 11: 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
• 1 Kings 17:10-16
Synopsis: In the ninth century B.C. 10 tribes in the northern part of Israel seceded from Jerusalem after rebelling against Solomon’s tyrannical son, Rehoboam. His rival, Jeroboam, led the people of the north into schism and idolatry by building sanctuaries where he set up golden calves (bulls actually) for the people to worship so they wouldn’t be tempted to go to Jerusalem.
About 50 years later, Elijah, the subject of this week’s first reading, was sent by God to lead the people of the north back to the Lord. The poor widow who Elijah stayed with represents all those in Israel who still believed in God despite the apostasy of their leaders. She expressed her faith by giving Elijah the last of her oil and flour.
Finally, our second reading is about Christ, the true high priest, who gave himself “once for all to take away sin by his sacrifice” (Heb 9:26). While Christ died “once for all,” the benefits of his sacrifice are made available to us through the Eucharist, enabling us to live lives of self-giving, sacrificial love like the widows in the other readings.
Key verse: “She, from her poverty, has contributed all she had” (Mark12:44).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Charity is the greatest social commandment. It respects others and their rights. It requires the practice of justice, and it alone makes us capable of it. Charity inspires a life of self-giving: ‘Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it’” (No. 1889).
Pope Benedict XVI: “The widow, who is very poor . . . expresses the fundamental characteristic of those who are the ‘living stones’ of this new Temple, namely the total gift of themselves to the Lord and to their neighbor; the widow of the Gospel, and likewise the widow in the Old Testament, gives everything, gives herself, putting herself in God’s hands for others” (Homily, Nov. 8, 2009).
Life application: The widows in this week’s readings are a real inspiration. They demonstrate deep and authentic faith by giving everything they had for the love of God. They epitomize true discipleship by putting their faith into action without counting the cost. Would that all of us had such faith! Faith like that would free us to give ourselves completely and set the world on fire.
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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