In a previous meditation on the biblical book of Ruth and the adversity that Naomi faced, I emphasized that if there is hope God is manifested even in adversity or calamity. The lectionary lessons for the Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, continue the same truth that no adversity is too great to overcome where hope has a foundation. In the First Reading from Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17 Ruth finds a husband – Boaz – prompting the women to remark to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next of kin…”. In the previous meditation, Naomi had lamented, “the hand of the Lord has turned against me”.
As a widow, Naomi’s world had collapsed on her. The family, in her society, was the only means of support. Furthermore, the family was itself depended on the males – notably, husbands and sons. Naomi had none! Yet, the sorrow in the words, “the hand of the Lord has turned against me” turns into the joy witnessed and proclaimed by her fellow women.
The alternative first reading from 1 Kings 17:8-16 is also a story about a widow in Zarephath. She too was facing adversity of hunger and starvation because of a long drought. She was going to cook the last flour she had. After that she expected to die of starvation along with her son.
But, again, God is manifested in the prophet Elijah and the widow survives the calamity of drought.
The Gospel Reading is also a story of a widow who gives everything that she has. Her trust and hope must not have been in what she had. Nor did she seem to worry about what she did not have. Her trust and hope were beyond the material possessions she had – even though marginal.
In the scriptures, widows are listed with orphans, the poor, strangers or aliens and the needy. They are the least in any society. They are not diminished because of their lack of material resources. In these stories, they teach us two lessons:
a). The little that we have matters far more than what we do not have. It is the little that sustains.
b). We will always have enough if we trust and fully depend on God. As Psalm 127:1 says: “Unless the Lord builds a house, their labor is in vain who build it”. Similarly, Psalm 146:4 says: “Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help; whose hope is in the Lord their God”.