Dispensers of Hope: A Homily by Deacon Jim Hyatt

When I was about 6 years old, I lived in a house on a hill which was a great hill for bike riding. My mom would allow me to ride my bike to the top of the hill and then zoom down the hill past the house, over and over again. You could really get cookin’ down that hill, but it was a long ride back up for a 6-year-old. One day I set out to conquer the hill on my bike pedaling my little legs hard to get to the top. When I was turning around at the top of the hill, I was already trying to get my speed up for the ride down… and then disaster struck. 

There was a bunch of sand and small rocks on the road and my bike slipped on that and I went flying, landing on my knees and then my head. Stitches were in my future. Well like any six-year-old, between the pain and the blood coming from the cut on my head, I was in full blown panic. Crying at the top of my lungs, I got back on my bike and pedaled home to get to my mom. It was probably the fastest trip down that hill I had ever done, and I am sure I looked like a Halloween ghoul on a bike! 

As my mom was patching me up, I still felt scared so, I asked her, “Mom, am I going to be OK??” She looked at me smiling and said, “Do not be afraid, you’re going to be alright.” I immediately felt better because I trusted her and knew that I in fact was going to be fine.

In our readings today, we meet two widows who likewise have heard, “Do not be afraid, you are going to be alright.” They can teach all of us a little about trust in God and maybe help us also see our role in the “you’re going to be alright”.

In the first reading from Kings, Elijah enters a town and encounters a widow with a heartbreaking story. She is gathering sticks for a small fire so that she can bake bread for her and her son, and because of a severe famine, it will be their last meal. She has just enough oil and flour to bake one more bread. Elijah says to her, “Do not be afraid” and tells her that the Lord will maintain her food supply throughout the famine. She trusts, obeys and she and her son live.   

In the Gospel, we meet the second widow who Jesus observes giving to the temple treasury. While many donate large sums with much fanfare, they are donating from their excess which is not a hardship. The widow, on the other hand, contributes two small coins, the only money she has to her name. She gave God all she had demonstrating complete faith and trust that, like the widow in the first reading, God will provide for her. 

Unlike the scribes and the rich donors who look for recognition and adulation, these humble, quiet widows don’t take, they give. Oil and flour, two small coins. 

So, for us, is the point here to trust God like these widows? Yes, certainly they have set a high bar for us to aspire to. And we have all heard that Jesus Christ wants us to “Trust in him”, but I think there may be more to the story for us to consider.

Which brings us to the Psalm this morning. In it, we heard that the Lord secures justice, gives food, raises up those bowed down and sustains the fatherless and the widows. And we responded with, “Praise the Lord, my soul!” 

The question for us this morning is who secures justice? Who raises up those bowed down? Who sustains the fatherless and the widow? Who visits the homebound? Is it someone else or is it Jesus Christ acting through you and me? We have all heard it said that we are his hands, his feet, his ears and his voice here on earth. And last week, we heard His commandment to love thy neighbor. Maybe we are the ones who are the, “You’re going to be alright.”

The good news is that there are already many quiet heroes, who unlike the scribes and rich donors, do not look for fanfare or recognition. They just do God’s work right here in this Church and right here in our hometown. They have also set a high bar for us!

But the not so good news is that the need is great, especially with all that has happened over the last 18 months. As the weather gets colder, the needs get more acute. Like the widow in the first reading, hope is in short supply. Maybe those who need our help are not crying on the outside like I was as a six-year-old, but they are terrified and crying on the inside, scared and maybe alone.

As God sent Elijah to the widow, maybe that is where we come in, where we can be the hands, feet, ears and voice to those that have trusted in the Lord and are waiting for Jesus to send help. Maybe we can make a difference in some small way in a world that has gone too cold. 

We are all endowed with gifts that we are meant to share. And when we do, a funny thing happens. Our own worries become less, we trust more, we have hope for the future. Maybe that is it, maybe to the sick, to the homebound, to the widowed, we can become the dispensers of hope. We can be the, “You’re going to be alright.”

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