As I celebrated Mass for All Souls Day this past Tuesday the words from the Second Reading from the letter of St Paul to the Romans struck a chord where it said, ‘hope is not deceptive.’ The Christian sense of hope is always optimistic as it is founded on a belief that God will take care of everything.
This is the theme that runs through all the readings for this Sunday. The widow of Zarephath was preparing a little bread and water to prepare for her son and herself as a last meal before they died. It is that moment that Elijah came along and asked her for bread and water. The story goes on to tell us that the widow, despite her poverty in a time of famine, gave generously to him. She responded to the message that Elijah gave her, ‘do not be afraid.’ She understood that God would ultimately take care of everything. Her depth of faith in God by sharing the little she had was extraordinary.
The same thing happens in the Gospel where it tells the story of another widow. A widow in the time of Jesus was one of the most vulnerable groups in society. When their husband died widows had no right of inheritance. They lost everything. Yet we hear Jesus praising her for her generosity. Her donation although it seemed insignificant, was tremendous, because she gave all she had. Her donation was an act of putting complete faith in God to care for her.
In this Sunday’s Second Reading from Hebrews the author contrasts the high priests who gave offerings from blood that was not their own to Jesus, the supreme High Priest, who gave his own blood for the sake of all humankind. It is a sacrifice that will never have to be repeated as it was perfect. Like the widows in the First Reading and the Gospel Jesus gave all that he had. He placed everything into his Father’s hands because he totally trusted in God. Hope here reminds us that death is not the last word but is the pathway to resurrection and new life.
The true measure of a gift is not what is given but what remains behind. In each case in today’s readings everything was given, and nothing was left behind. How much faith do we have that God is going to provide? What is the quality of our giving? Is it given with faith and love? Is it possible that we need to hear the words of Elijah in today’s First Reading, ‘do not be afraid?’ How often do we hold back by giving into fear, selfishness and insisting on my way of doing things?
Hope is believing that God will take care of everything. It does not mean that we forego planning, but it means we trust God.