After their escape from Egypt the Israelite’s reached Mount Sinai and God instructed Moses to climb the mountain where he would come to him in a cloud. We know Moses was given the ten commandments during his time on the mountain but there were other instructions given to Moses during his time on the mountain, in fact there are 19 chapters in Exodus detailing the conversation between Moses and God. We are not told how long Moses was with God but it was long enough the people below got restless and gathered gold rings from their wives, daughters and sons, melted them and fashioned a calf which they began to worship.
God was angry and told Moses he was going to destroy them and start all over making Moses a great nation. Moses pleads with God reminding him of his promise to Abraham to make his descendants a great nation. By now you are wondering how this story in the Old Testament fits in with the reading we have today. I thought of this story because it is a great picture of us and our approach to God when he does not seem to be present in our lives.
Do we feel God’s present in our life all the time or is God in our consciousness all the time? Often, I am told how silent God seems to be and many express doubts that God really cares what they are going through. The real question we should be asking of ourselves is not “does God care” or “where is God.” The real question is do we trust God’s promises to us. Consider the Israelite’s who were freed from slavery and promised a land of their own. They saw God’s miracles when the angel of death passed over their homes but not the Egyptians. They saw the Red Sea parting, they saw and experienced God providing water and food, they witnessed Moses victory over the army of Amalek and now were waiting for the next phase of their journey.
They were no longer moving forward but waiting and perhaps this period when God is not present to them is a lesson we need to learn as we wait without seeing. Are we like the widow of Zarephath knowing there is nothing left for us after we use the little faith we have, or do we believe the promise of God to provide all we need? Are we aware of God’s promise never forsake us or have we forgotten his promise move forward in faith? Or do we begin to occupy ourselves with a desire to be in his presence as those Israelite’s did and worship something that reminds us of God as they did with the golden calf?
These familiar stories of the widow of Zarephath and the widow’s mite are stories challenging us to stand firm and trust in God’s promises to us. Why would the poor widow give what little she had other than she believed God’s promises to “…open the treasure houses of heaven for us” (Deut. 28:12) to those who listen to him. Why would the poor widow give her few coins unless believed the promise of God to provide all she needs (Mt.6:26)?
The comparison of them to the Pharisees given in the gospel challenges us to look at ourselves. Do we trust in God when all is going well for us and when things are not going well for us? The gospel challenges us to totally and unequivocally not to look at what we do not have but instead to look at what God can do with the little we have. It challenges us not to do things people can see but do them when people cannot see our faith. The law of tithe is one way we can do that today. In Jesus’ day the tithe was visible to all, not like today when our tithe is not visible in our envelopes. I am not talking about money, I am talking about what we give or hold back from God is our hearts. These stories are the first and greatest commandment in action; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your strength. Trust is the foundation of love and trust can only be built when you learn to know the heart of the other.
God desires our hearts and he desires us to follow him. The great command was to go and make disciples of all the nations not to make faithful Catholic’s. The Pharisee’s were faithful to the law and all its requirements and yet we see how Jesus uses them to contrast a disciple from an obedient law abiding believer in God. The disciple trust completely in the promises even when God is silent, even when disaster seems imminent.
How do we respond to the challenge of discipleship? We are shown how a lack of understanding the power available to disciples influences our choices in the gospel stories. Feed them yourselves Jesus said to the disciples. Their response was “it is not possible for we have nothing but there is a boy here with a few fish.” Give it to me said Jesus. The challenge of Elisha to the widow with the flour was that same challenge “what do you have.” Her response was I have nothing but a little flour, give it to me Elisha said. What are we giving to God?
We need to stop taking our spiritual life into our own hands as the Israelite’s did with the golden calf and trust God is working to supply all we need as he was doing on that mountain top. We worship a God we cannot see but his promise is that he will never “forsake us” (Is. 49:15).