Tuesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
(I Kings 17:7-16; Matthew 5:13-16)
Few passages in American literature move the soul more than the ending of The Grapes of Wrath. It shows a family struggling to survive. It left the “dust bowl” of Oklahoma for the promise of California. But there the situation becomes direr. Their labor is exploited, and winter rains sweep away their home. The eldest daughter, whose young husband abandoned her, has given birth to a still-born. The family takes shelter in an old barn. There they meet a young boy and his father who is starving to death after giving his son all his food. The young woman who lost her baby then agrees to give her breastmilk to the dying man.
Today’s first reading relates a parallel story. Elijah, the prophet, is fleeing Israel because of a draught. He goes to Zarephath, a town on the Phoenician coast. There he encounters a pagan widow who is dying of hunger along with her son. The prophet tells her to bring him some bread. She replies that she only has a handful of flour left to feed her son. Elijah tells her not to worry but to bring him the bread. She believes the prophet, feeds him, and miraculously never runs out of food.
Most of us use the possibility of incurring a shortfall as an excuse not to help others. We may say that “charity begins at home.” But charity begins with God who gave His Son as the living bread for the life of the world. Sharing our resources with those in need will not make us poor. Indeed, as much as our motive is faith in the ever-generous God, it will enrich us.