Back to Blog
The Widows' Might
The 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
Homily at the Sunday Liturgy, the College of St. Rose, Albany, NY
According to tonight’s gospel Jesus was deeply disturbed about the grave inequities in the economic and social system of his time.  He publicly criticized the hypocritical behavior of the religious leaders who, under the guise of their piety, took advantage of the weaker members of society. 
In this gospel and the Book of Deuteronomy we read that, even though they had very little, the widows gave what they could. In this sense the widows are the exemplars of the ways we should serve one another.
Theologian Amanda Brobst-Renaud suggests the “widow’s offering is both an expression of trust in God in the midst of the world comprised of broken people, systems, and communities of faith.” Brobst-Renaud suggests that the undocumented alien, the widow, and the orphan are frequently forgotten.
This gospel is not only about what the widow gave. It is a biting criticism of the behavior of the privileged class of scribes who ruled the Temple and the lives of the people. The widow in the story had no access to food stamps, soup kitchens, social security, medicaid, medicare or health care. Neither do many women today.
Although some studies suggest the percentage of widows’ living in poverty has fallen, largely due to education and employment opportunities,  women who are widowed and women who are single parents continue to struggle to make ends meet. Women of color suffer even more so. The gospel makes us mindful of their plights.
If Jesus, the itinerant Jewish prophet, were standing in the halls of Congress today he might be railing against self-serving politicians who have placed their careers above the needs of their constituents. On the public record there is little evidence of their passion for helping families who live below the poverty level.
A lesson from history may be helpful here. Heather Cox-Richardson reminds us that, after the Great Depression, Herbert Hoover could not find support for a program that would get this country back on its feet. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, trying to pick up the pieces, would later propose a New Deal.
Congressional leaders at the time — liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican — felt a national emergency existed and passed Roosevelt’s programs quickly. The New Deal created opportunities and a social safety net for all Americans including widows, orphans, and the elderly.
These two political parties, that once advanced economic and social liberalism, are now competing for power and wealth in our country already torn apart over racial issues, the pandemic, education, falsehoods, voting rights, religious liberties, and the economy.
Although the infrastructure bill was passed, Congress must now pass the social and environmental package. To do so, politicians need to stop operating in secrecy, which makes it easier to push their agendas and avoid scrutiny and criticism from the very people they are elected to serve. 
Where does religion come in? Working for the common good is a corporate responsibility. Civic and religious leaders need to listen to one another and learn to work together to promote new programs and strengthen existing ones to serve those in need. Individual agendas have to be set aside.
Psalm 146 reminds us that God secures justice for the oppressed and food for the hungry. How will those of us who gather here to worship God and share communion respond not only to the voices of the widows in these biblical stories but to our local and global societies that desperately need repair?
In her book, Radical Discipleship: A Liturgical Politics of the Gospel, Jennifer McBride, professor of theology and ethics at McCormick Seminary, urges that we must learn to connect our participation in the eucharist with social action.
McBride comments: “Since the gospel demands discipleship … it is inherently social and political. It concerns how we structure society in a way that demonstrates love for the neighbors, strangers, and enemies, a love that leads to both social and personal transformation.”
Pope Francis wrote in Fratelli Tutti, we can seek “a better kind of politics, one truly at the service of the common good” (no. 154). These hope-filled words are challenging for political and religious leaders as well as you and me in a time that is both unpredictable and troubling. Change requires all of us working together with all our “might.” Every person matters.
1. Adams, J.R., From Literal to Literary (Cleveland: Pilgrim Press) 2005, 310.
2. Byrne, B. A Costly Freedom (Collegeville: Liturgical Press) 2008, 194.
4. Editorial, The Sunday Gazette, November 7, 2021, D1.
11/7/2021 01:33:37 pm
Thank you for this - great to have your homily again.
11/7/2021 05:31:11 pm
When will we work for the common good? We expect everyone to lift themselves by their bootstraps, but many have no boots. In order for God to provide its requires the Church and Society to respond.
11/13/2021 04:50:10 pm
I second what Al said above and strive to be the outstretched hand helping those in need.
Comments are closed.