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Dear brothers and sisters!
The Liturgy of the Word this Sunday presents us the figures of 2 widows as models of faith. They are presented in parallel: one in the first Book of Kings (17:10-16), the other in the Gospel of Mark (12:41-44). Both of these women are desperately poor and precisely in this situation demonstrate a great faith in God. The first appears in the cycle of stories about the prophet Elijah. During a famine Elijah is ordered by God to go to area near Sidon, that is, beyond Israel, into pagan territory. There he meets the widow and asks her for water to drink and a little bread. She tells him that she has only a bit of flour and a drop of oil, but, because the prophet insists and promises her that, if she listens to him, she will not lack flour and oil, she does what he asks and is recompensed. The second widow, the one in the Gospel, is observed by Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem by the treasury, where the people were taking offerings. Jesus sees this widow put 2 coins in the treasury; he then calls his disciples and explains to them that her offering is greater than those of the rich because while they gave from their excess, the widow gave “all she had to live on” (Mark 12:44).
From these 2 biblical episodes, wisely approached, we can draw a precious teaching about faith. It is about the interior attitude of those who base their lives on God, on his Word, and completely entrust themselves to him. In antiquity widows lived in a condition of grave need. For this reason in the Bible widows and orphans are people of whom God takes special care: they have last their earthly support but God is their Husband or their Father. Nevertheless, Scripture says that the objective condition of need, in this case the fact of being a widow, is not sufficient: God always asks for our adherence in faith, which is expressed in love of him and neighbor. No one is ever so poor that he cannot give something. And in fact both of our widows today demonstrate their faith through acts of charity: the one towards the prophet and the other gives alms. In this way they attest to the inseparability of faith and charity and love of God and love of neighbor – as last Sunday’s Gospel reminded us. Pope St. Leo the Great, whose feast we celebrated yesterday, says this: “On the scales of divine justice it is not the quantity of gifts that has weight but the heart. The widow of the Gospel deposited 2 coins in the Temple treasury and this surpassed the offerings of all the rich. No act of goodness is without value before God, no act of mercy is without fruit” (Sermo de jejunio dec. mens., 90, 3).
The Virgin Mary is the perfect example of those who offer their whole self, entrusting themselves to God; with this faith she speaks her “Here I am” to the Angel and accepts the will of God. May Mary help each of us in this Year of Faith and strengthen confidence in God and in his Word.
[Following the recitation of the Angelus the Holy Father greeted in various languages those present. In Italian he said:]
Dear brothers and sisters!
Yesterday, in Spoleto, Maria Luisa Prosperi was proclaimed blessed. She lived in the first half of the nineteenth century, was a nun and an abbess in the Benedictine monastery of Trevi. Together with the whole Benedictine family and the diocesan community of Spoleto-Norcia, we praise the Lord for this daughter of his, who desired to associate herself with Christ’s Passion in a singular way. In Italy today we celebrate the “Giornata del Ringraziamento” (Day of Thanksgiving). In the context of the Year of Faith, the theme of Day “Trust in the Lord and do good that you may dwell in the land” (Psalm 37:3) recalls the necessity of a way of life rooted in faith for recognizing with gratitude the creative and provident hand of God in feeding his children. I greet and offer my best wishes to all farmers!
[In English he said:]
I greet all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at this Angelus prayer. In today’s Gospel, the poor widow gives everything she possesses to the Temple. May her unconditional offering inspire us to rely on God alone, while attributing to everything else its due place and proper worth. Upon you and your families I invoke God’s abundant blessings!
[Again in Italian he said:]
I am happy to greet the participants in the conference on Fr. Teilhard de Chardin, which is being held at the Gregorian University. [...] I wish everyone a good Sunday, a good week. Thank you for your attention. Have a good Sunday.