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Thirty Second sunday in Ordinary Time (B)


"This poor widow has put in more than all."



The Word This Week


“God does not have favourites”, Saint Paul tells us, but God always makes a special place for the poor, and those whom society would push into second place. In the traditions of Israel God invited the people to have special care for the “widows and orphans” - so the story we hear in today’s Gospel would have a particular resonance. The paradox of Christian faith is this: in giving, we receive. Christ gave everything, sacrificing his very life, and in return received a new and unending life. The widow in the first reading gave her last food for the prophet Elijah, and in return received an endless supply. This is a challenge to us in our turn: what are we invited or asked to give, and in what spirit will we do so, and what will be our reward?


Notes for Readers


First Reading: 1 Kings 17:10-16

Here you are narrating a straightforward story, though it is worth being aware of the context. This little scene comes in the midst of dramatic events: a dreadful famine and drought are afflicting the whole land, which will eventually be ended by the prophet Elijah in the encounter with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Elijah knows and trusts that God will bring water to the people.

Make sure you know who is speaking when – one of the ways in which a reading can become difficult to listen to is when the reader does not have a clear idea of who the speaker is: find some way of making Elijah and the widow “sound different” – not by putting on different voices, but by your tone and inflection. Glance at the Gospel today, and see that the point being emphasised is generosity when we have nothing: underline the fears of the widow, but also her willingness to do what she can, but also clearly emphasise the promise of God and the happy ending to this little story.


Second Reading: Hebrews 9:24-28

The letter to the Hebrews can be a little difficult to understand sometimes, especially when it delves into cultural and religious ideas that are very far away from our own – a good example is today’s passage, which is all about priesthood: not the sort that we are familiar with, but the priesthood of the Temple in Jerusalem. This priesthood was about blood: the animal sacrifices that were offered every day in the Temple worship. The author is making a simple point: what Jesus did on the cross is the same as the Temple priests did – but with one difference: he used his own blood. The letter sets up a contrast between the priest going into the Temple sanctuary again and again, and Jesus entering the heavenly sanctuary once and for all. Have a good read through to make sure you understand the points being made here, and then proclaim it slowly, doing your best to help the congregation follow the logic of the argument. Be very careful with the last sentence, which is a little awkward: weigh each word, and work out in advance where to pause.



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