Being a widow in Israel was many times to be destined for living in extreme poverty. No protection, no material resources, no help from the family. Although the Law commanded to support those in need, they were always the last ones to receive.
But the history showed that in that situation, God himself was becoming Protector and Defensor of a widow. This is what we can see in the first reading: God sent the great prophet Elijah to the humble widow in some forgotten town of Sidon to protect her from starving to death. This widow becomes, at the same time, salvation for Elijah, sign of God’s providence and care. In the Gospel of Saint Mark, we also see Jesus sent to witness and praise a humble widow who throws her insignificant amount of money to the treasury. She becomes a sign for Jesus’ disciples of God’s attention to the least and the last.
There is another element important in these two stories. The reason of starvation in Israel in time of Elijah was the behavior of their king Ahab. The king has broken the Covenant, has raised temples for foreign gods, has worshipped them and killed those who remained faithful to the God of Israel. Because of him, the simple people suffered. Just before encountering the widow in the Gospel, Jesus said hard words to the chiefs of his people, those who only look for positions, for money, for respect of others, but who don’t really care for the humble members of their people. This remains still true in our times: simple and humble people suffer because of those who are governing, those in different positions who don’t care for their flock, but for their own interests.
Just to give some examples: in the Philippines in times of election there are always barrios of the poor being burnt. Later, there are always some politicians to show their charity and give to the poor something to eat or to wear. The thing is that oftentimes it is the same politicians who commanded their houses to be burnt the ones who later hurry to help. Just a part of election game where the poor suffer so that some rich may gain. And there are many charitable organizations used as money laundering agencies to hide illegal income gained through not so noble activities in which, many times, the innocent and the poor are the victims, not the beneficiary.
We need to open our eyes to reality around us. Serving people is not only remedying their situation by immediate kind of help. It is also to recognize the reasons behind their situations and support all kind of efforts so that this situation may just stop happening. There are still many widows among us. The option that we have to do in our times is to choose whose side we are taking. Whom are we supporting? To whom we direct out attention? To those in position to also gain some benefits for ourselves, or to those in need who may not repay us, but who are the favorite ones of God?