Widows and Risk-taking
Since my last posting I have been dealing with back pain, the awful side-effects of a new pain drug (which I stopped after only a week) and the ins-and-outs of insurance claims. I went to a orthopedic surgeon for a consultation last week and he sent me back to the pain doctor with a couple of new alternatives to try that don’t involve surgery.
I think I’m getting discouraged or maybe a little angry. That's why I haven't felt like blogging. But then I figured that that maybe you'd still be interested in my struggles.
This past Sunday the mass readings were about two different widows. Watching them in action pointed out a couple of things about my ways of dealing recently (and unsuccessfully) with my pain.
First, the two readings:
1 Kings 17:8-16
The word of the LORD came to Elijah, saying, "Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you." So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, "Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink." As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, "Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand." But she said, "As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die." Elijah said to her, "Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the LORD sends rain on the earth." She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah.
Jesus sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, "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."
These two widows are helpless and bereft since their society provided them with no sort of official status let alone any financial support. The first one, who had enough flour for only one final meal, was faced with the prophet’s challenge "Do not be afraid; .... make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son.” She accepts the challenge to give the flour to the prophet first, trusting that somehow there will be some ledt for her son. In returnt she is given the gift of a miraculous supply of wheat and oil.
The second widow has two tiny coins. It’s no accident that she has not one but two coins, because this gives her the option of giving one coin to the temple and saving one for her lunch. With the same courage as the first widow she “put in everything she had, all she had to live on."
These examples of boundless trust in the Lord come at a time in my life when I’m being asked to let go of a lot of things such as hikes in the forest, daily walks in the neighborhood, an image of youthful vigor, and a simple independence. “Would you mind carrying this for me?” “I won’t be able to be there, my back’s killing me.”
I have every hope of finding a solution to the back pain and returning to most of the activities I’ve had to let go of, but meanwhile I sense the Lord stripping me down to some really essential things, which I may also have to let go of eventually as well. This is the part that I really don’t like! The example of the trusting widows shames me into looking at my own attitude toward God and trying to summon up their kind of courage.The Benedictus Club still meets in the monastery church every morning at 6:00 a.m. as, among the clouds of witnesses joining us at prayer, the friends and relatives and unknown millions who live with pain in their lives every day sit beside me. From my humble position of sitting while the rest of the monks stand to sing the Benedictus, I still manage to join my voice with theirs and sing “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel … for the Day shall dawn upon us from on high…”