Monday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
(Daniel 1:1-6.8-20, Luke 21:1-4)
A man with a Ph.D. in biology enjoys talking about the diet of Chinese peasants. He says that since they are dirt poor, Chinese peasants can afford little meat and dairy products. Rather, he explains, they mainly eat vegetables and receive the protein that their bodies require from beans and other legumes. The authority is convinced that this diet is not inferior but significantly superior to richer, western diets. He believes that the fats westerners assimilate from eating meat not only threatens their hearts but also are related to cancer.
The results of the vegetarian experiment related in the first reading today, then, should not be surprising. Although the chamberlain believes that Daniel and his companions would be undernourished by the diet, actually they prove to be healthier than the others because of it. But, of course, good nutrition is not the prophet’s point in relating this story. He means to tell us that when we abide by the Lord’s will, things always work out for the best. We do not need to worry, as Jesus says, about what we eat and drink or about what clothes we wear when seek first God’s kingdom.
Jesus reaffirms this lesson in the gospel today. He praises the poor widow for generosity, a virtue extolled throughout this Luke’s gospel. Sometimes we think that we might ignore God’s will as expressed by Jesus in order to secure more of a desired good. Some people argue, for example, that it would be all right to take the life of a patient suffering from incurable cancer so that she does not suffer. But such an action would violate the sanctity of human life, one of the highest principles of God’s law. No, we want to go out of our way to comfort and console those in agony. When we do so, both they and we will benefit.