Today's readings can be found here.
In the first reading, from the first book of Kings, a widow feels crushed by the demands of life. She sees her pantry, knows there is no money, and feels that she is on her last meal and will die soon. Elijah asks her for water, which she can provide. Then, he asks her for food, which she feels she cannot provide – even she and her son will die soon from starvation. He assures her that God will provide for her. She then gives Elijah a little cake made of flour and oil, a cake made from what she had, definitely not her surplus. Then a miracle happens, she and her son eat for a year from her pantry. They do not die.
In today's rough economic times, we may feel a large squeeze when it comes to tithing. We may look at the bills that have to be paid, and see one that is paid out of the kindness of the heart and choose to skip that one. This really isn't the right approach. Our tithe is a gift to the church. It is a sacrifice. It is an offering of love and support. Scriptural tradition of tithing asks giving 10% of everything we have, not just of our surplus, or extra, but 10% of everything. The church asks for 5%, and recommends giving 5% to another charity.
Today's gospel tells us the story of a widow who gave all she had for God by her tithe. Today's first reading tells us the story of a widow who gave her last meal to a man of God. In biblical times, widows did not work and had no hope of earning more income themselves. Their hope was the community that cared for them. Still they gave. Can we model our own lives after these women?
In the first reading, we might ask about the mechanics of the widow and son's survival. Does a miracle occur where the pantry creates its own food? Does Elijah go into her village and tell the priest, “there is a widow dying of starvation, provide for her.”? We cannot know. What we know is that in a hard time, a woman had faith to give what she had to help another person. What we know is that God blessed her for it, and God provided for her. He will bless us and provide for us too if we have that same faith.