Sunday: The Widow vs. the Rich Young Man

This Sunday (the 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B) our readings celebrate a woman whose gift of a tiny amount of money attracted the praise and intention of the Second Person of the Trinity.

The widow in today’s Gospel must be a saint — her charity is praised by Jesus himself. In fact, his interaction with her was the opposite of his interaction with the Rich Young Man. Remember: The Rich Young Man had followed the commandments his whole life, and asked Jesus what more he needed to do to gain eternal life. Jesus said, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

The rich man couldn’t do it: He was too attached to his many possessions. The widow should be even more attached to her possessions, since she has so few. She is not.

If anyone has a right to be angry at God or at the world, it is a widow in a society like that of the New Testament. She has been deprived of her livelihood by death, and will naturally wonder how that was God’s will. But the Gospel’s widow doesn’t have this attitude; she is giving sacrificially to the Temple.

She is reminiscent of the widow in today’s first reading, who is quick to be generous with Elijah when he visits her. The repayment the Old Testament widow gets is a full jar of flour and plenty of oil; later, Elijah even resurrects her son. The repayment the New Testament widow gets is far greater, but it is not as immediately obvious. After encountering Christ, she remains a poor widow.

But the second reading promises her much more.

Says the book of Hebrews: “Just as it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment, so also Christ, offered once to take away the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.”

At her judgment, she will get what she eagerly awaits.

The question is, what will each of us find then?

Says the Catechism (No. 678) on the last day, “Our attitude about our neighbor will disclose acceptance or refusal of divine love.”

In other words, like the Rich Young Man, on the day of judgment we will find that no matter how much we say we love God, our deeds will tell a deeper truth. The extent to which we give of ourselves to others is the extent to which we have accepted or refused God’s love.

The response that Christ wants from his Church is a more authentic witness to his love: He wants us to give more, love him more, and bring more people to love him.

The ways to do that are as numerous as there are people in the world. A generous mother who is open to life and always ready to serve her children gives her all. A father who works all day, and then serves his family instead of himself in the evening, gives his all. A student who decides to do the studies that are his state in life instead of procrastinating or playing video-games also gives all. A single person who is faithful to a state in life and stays pure gives all, too.

Christ is rooting for us, not in “a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself, that he might now appear before God on our behalf.”

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes, author of The Rosary of Saint John Paul II and The Fatima Family Handbook, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas and hosts The Extraordinary Story podcast about the life of Christ. His book What Pope Francis Really Said is now available on Audible. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, Hoopes served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Aleteia.org and the Register. He and his wife, April, have nine children and live in Atchison, Kansas.