In the patriarchal societies in which these two widows lived, widowhood was an especially dangerous condition. When a woman married, she left the safety of her household and became dependent on her husband. If her husband died, she not only lost her partner, she lost her source of income, her economic standing, her social support, and likely her inheritance rights. No wonder widows were associated with extreme poverty and used as examples of those living a marginal existence. These two widows clearly meet this description. As a final indication of what little they have, despite their prominence in each story, they are not even given names. These women are wonderful models of Christ like sacrifice. The widow in the first reading fully expects to starve to death. The entire region where she lived had been hit by severe drought, so food was difficult to come by for everyone, let alone a widow and her son. Yet she is willing to give the last of her sustenance to this stranger in need. She is not Jewish; she is a pagan who worships Baal, the god honored in this region. To her, Elijah is a foreigner in nationality, culture, and religion. But that does not deter her in the least. Like Jesus, she sacrifices for “others.” We are told that the widow in the Gospel has no more than these two small coins: Jesus says she “has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood” (Mark 12:44). She has given all that she has to God. She has faith that God will provide. Like Jesus, she is a model of complete generosity and faith.
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