Chalk it up to a combination of pregnancy brain and overtiredness but when my sister explained, “I don’t have my contacts in so I can’t hear what you’re saying,” I knew it was time for her to get some sleep.
And when I left home for the weekend without a scrap of work along, resulting in a 48 hour fight against a flood of anxiety, I knew it was time to run to Jesus. It was time to remember why I serve Him. It was time to believe He could (and would) supply whatever was necessary to do the work He had given me. There was a feeling of childish foolishness as I bent my head before my Lord. In His wisdom, He did not respond with comforting, coddling words. Often when I pray in the midst of stress, I am lulled into peace of mind by His invitation to rest in Him. Yesterday though, the Lord took a different approach.
The Gospel and homily at yesterday’s Mass spoke of the poor widow who gave all she had to God: two small coins amounting to a greater gift than all the donations of rich men and women who gave from their surplus. In the minutes after the homily though, it was not this story or its lessons that resonated in my mind. Instead, the 1st reading stayed with me. It’s one of my favorite passages from the Old Testament.
In those days, Elijah the prophet went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the
entrance of the city, a widow was gathering sticks there; he called out to
her, “Please bring me a small cupful of water to drink.” She left to get it, and
he called out after her, “Please bring along a bit of bread.” She answered, “As
the LORD, your God, lives, I have nothing baked; there is only a handful of flour
in my jar and a little oil in my jug. Just now I was collecting a couple of
sticks, to go in and prepare something for myself and my son; when we have eaten
it, we shall die.” Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid. Go and do as you
propose. But first make me a little cake and bring it to me. Then you can prepare
something for yourself and your son. For the LORD, the God of Israel, says, ‘The
jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when
the LORD sends rain upon the earth.'” She left and did as Elijah had said. She
was able to eat for a year, and he and her son as well; the jar of flour did not
go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, as the LORD had foretold through Elijah. (1
My heart trembled to hear the Lord speak to me, sternly but lovingly.
“Do you suppose I will not do likewise for you? Will I not supply what you need when I ask something of you? Do the work I have given you! Do it well; do it faithfully. Have I asked you to do it based on your own merit? On your own skill and talent? Assuredly, no. I have asked it of you on the basis that I am able, and I will, give what you need to do it. The prophet asked for a mere bit of bread and a drink of water, and this was a burden to the starving woman and her child. It was reasonable for her to say she could not give what was asked of her. Without my grace, she’d have been right. She could not give it, but I could. If I will you to give of yourself – to serve- then I will also supply the gift. What is necessary from you is the ‘yes’, the willingness and the effort required to give away what I give to you. As the woman still had to knead and bake the bread from the flour and oil which I gave to her, so there is work to be done if you are to give from what I have supplied to you. Why then do you hesitate? Why do you talk yourself out of the effort? For love of me, you will continue. If no other reward, no other comfort, comes of it, will you continue for love of me, as an act of trust in me? Will you continue with the humble confidence of one who knows that I supply what I ask of you?”
I was struck by that paradoxical truth: that everything God asks of us, He also provides. In every instance that demands from me love or generosity or compassion or patience or courage, my yes will unleash God’s love, generosity, compassion, patience or courage into my own heart. The demands can be challenging and exhausting. They can be downright trying. Yet as I sat there in the church, staring up at the crucifix hanging above the altar, I knew that I could not stand my ground on one single excuse or argument against believing that God will faithfully supply for my needs as I serve Him. He will not allow my jar of flour to go empty, nor my jug of oil to run dry.