1 Kings 17, 7-16
There were many widows in Israel at the time of Elijah, when heaven was closed for three years and six months and there was a great famine throughout the country but none of them was sent Elijah but a widow in Sarepta of Sidon. (Lk 4:26). Jesus quotes the faith of the widow of Sarepta to express all the sadness because the inhabitants of his city did not recognize in him the Messiah, the Son of God. The pagan widow believed in the words of Elijah who transmitted to her God's promise to intervene for save her from famine. Jesus knows sacred history and updates it completely. Who was this widow? A mother, poor and grieving, who, however, can welcome those who are poorer than her because the many trials she experienced in her have taught her the richness of gratuitousness.
She is the woman chosen by God to help the prophet Elijah in the desert: "I have given orders to a widow to support you". A paradoxical choice, because in Sarepta there were so many wealthy people and the Lord chooses her, deprived of financial support, wounded in her affections, reached the limit of her resources, to help an equally poor man. Here's the story. Elijah, thirsty and hungry, meets a woman who was gathering wood and asks her, initially, "some water" and shortly after, discovering her availability, the question increases: "A piece of bread". The woman does not hold back, even if she is at the end of her strength and provisions and looking up to heaven: "For the life of the Lord your God" she offers him the nourishment necessary to survive. Two poor people are thus confronted: Elijah deprived of everything, homeless, aimless, without the possibility of support and the very poor widow, close to starvation: she has only a handful of flour and a little oil to prepare the last bite before dying. Elijah urges her to have courage in giving free food and to prepare a "little focaccia" first for him and "then" for her and for her son, since "the flour in the jar will not run out and the jar of oil will empty until the Lord will not make it rain on the earth ».
The woman believes in the promise and the miracle is accomplished: the flour and oil do not diminish. The Lord himself took care of feeding the widow burdened by so much suffering. Which are not finished: the son dies. And here is the gift that returns the generosity of that mother out of all proportion. The prophet goes upstairs with the child's corpse and shouts to the sky his protest in the face of the tragedy of that poor generous woman. And the baby is returned to the mother. Who thanking the prophet concludes: "Now I know that you are a man of God and that the true word of the Lord is on your mouth". As in so many other episodes, a pagan recognizes the true God.
Anna Maria Del Prete
NP January 2021