Sunday, November 07, 2021

Checking Our Cheese...

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

Readings: 1 Kings 17:10-16; Psalm 145 (146): 7-10; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44

Picture: cc Marco Verch Professional Photographer

My dear friends, do you know when cheese is not really cheese? I must confess that I was very surprised, when I was told the answer not long ago. Apparently, a popular brand of individually packed cheese slices actually contains so little cheese, that it has to be called a cheese product. Which just goes to show how important it is for us not to simply take things at face value. Just because something is described as cheese, doesn’t mean it actually contains real cheese. Better to take a closer look, to find out more… Otherwise we may end up eating something far less nutritious than advertised.

I mention this because food is also a central feature of our readings today. We see this most clearly in the first reading. In a time of famine – a dire shortage of food – caused by drought, the prophet Elijah begs a poor Sidonian widow to feed him. And she willingly shares with him the little food she has. But why, we may ask, does the prophet beg from such a poor person? And why is this particular widow so generous?

The reading begins at verse 10. We find the answers to our questions in verses 8 and 9. There we are told that it was the Lord, who instructed Elijah to seek out the widow, and that it was also the Lord, who commanded her to feed him. All of which indicates that both Elijah and the widow did not simply share the same food for their stomachs. They also shared the same nourishment for their souls. By acting as they did, they were both obeying, feeding on, the word of the Lord.

In the gospel too, we find a poor widow, who generously donates to the Temple all she had to live on. The gospel doesn’t tell us why she does this. But we may assume a similar motive to those of Elijah and the first widow. Like them, she probably thinks she is obeying God, that she is feeding on the word of the Lord. But notice what Jesus says at the beginning of the reading. He tells his disciples to beware of the scribes, to guard against the very people responsible for the financial system the widow is obeying. Why? It’s because of the food they eat… They swallow the property of widows, while making a show of lengthy prayers… Instead of feeding on the word of God, these religious leaders feast on the livelihoods of the poor, whom they fool into thinking they are obeying God. Which is not so different from selling cheese that’s not real cheese, right?

Unfortunately, such things still happen today. The recent case of that poor woman, who became very sick after buying and ingesting the drug Ivermectin, as protection against Covid-19, is just one, more obvious, example. She did this on the advice of Catholic friends, who led her to believe it was what God wanted. Thankfully, by generously sacrificing himself once and for all, Christ has established this eucharistic table, from which we are fed, and at which we are given what we need to judge the true nutritional value of every other food.

Sisters and brothers, what must we do to be more vigilant, and to help one another to carefully check our cheese today?

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