32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
THE GOLDEN COMPLEMENT TO THE GOLDEN RULE
By John Dalla Costa
here are times in everyone’s spiritual life when a door starts closing before a new one opens. In that discomfiting gap, before longing comes to fruition, or grief gets fully mourned, we experience a type of vulnerability that can be truly transformative.
In today’s readings we meet two remarkable women who in the face of utter deprivation chose to be completely generous. One nameless widow fed the prophet Elijah with her last handful of flour; another nameless widow offered all of her few pennies in thanksgiving and praise at the synagogue.
It turned out that their own desperation was dissolved by these acts of incredible mercy. But beyond that, in giving away to others what each needed most for herself, these women also affected cosmic change – in one case, enabling an indispensable prophet to do God’s work; in the other, becoming an exemplar for prayer in the humble, self-offering style embodied by Jesus himself towards the Heavenly Father.
Usually our vulnerabilities cause us to turn our attention inward, to ourselves. These women had so much trust in our loving God that they deepened their own precariousness to share with others.
At the very beginning of his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius of Loyola instructs us to be “generous to God.” This is an inversion of prayer for many of us, who turn to God seeking consolation, intercession, help, succour, clarity, or forgiveness. Ignatius’ point, I think, is that God needs us, not technically, because God is God, but relationally, because we have been created in love, and redeemed to love back.
As happened to the widows, the turn to generosity in our lives, especially learning to give to others from our own vulnerability, creates space for unexpected grace to surprise us. It also, as happened with the widows, tips over a domino that spreads giving and receiving to others. The destiny of nations, and the salvation of souls, pivot on even our most humble of offerings, when these are shared from the heart, and circulated with love.
1 Kings 17:10-16