Saturday, November 17, 2012

Continue Their Journey

Continue Their Journey

November 17, 2012
Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, religious
Beloved, you are faithful in all you do for the brothers and sisters, especially for strangers; they have testified to your love before the Church.  Please help them in a way worthy of God to continue their journey.  3 John 5-6
"And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, 'Render a just decision for me against my adversary.'  For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, 'While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.'"  The Lord said, "Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.  Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night?  Luke 18:3-7a


The Saint of the Day reflection ( provides some insight into Elizabeth of Hungary and the readings in today's Mass.  It tells us that "[i]n her short life Elizabeth manifested such great love for the poor and suffering that she has become the patroness of Catholic charities and of the Secular Franciscan Order.  The daughter of the King of Hungary, Elizabeth chose a life of penance and asceticism when a life of leisure and luxury could easily have been hers. This choice endeared her in the hearts of the common people throughout Europe."  May her faith-in-action inspire us today and always.


Scripture readings of late have been using widows in action to deliver many lessons to us.  The widow giving her last mite.  The widow feeding Elijah with the last crumb of odd. And now the widow asking the judge for a favorable ruling.
Generosity.  Hospitality.  Perseverance. All these and more are qualities we can learn from the widows in these stories. Beyond the quality of their character, keep in mind why these qualities are so much more amazing.  In the societies portrayed in Biblical times, widows were among the "anaweim."  Widows (along with orphans and invalids) were among the least powerful members of societies.  These protected groups were a special responsibility for the King.  The rulers were to take care of these least of society, not the other way around. 
Throughout our study of the Bible, we can ask ourselves why did God have such extraordinary bias in favor of the poor?  Why visit the shepherds in the field on Christmas night?  Would not the Good News have spread faster and farther is the angels broke the news of the Incarnation to Herod -- or even Caesar directly. 
How He loved to confound the "wise" and "powerful" of this world with little ones whose humility and openness to His Will and His grace allowed Him to work His wonders through them in the sight of the people, for He knew they would give the glory rightly to Him and not to themselves.
Rather than being "takers," these poor widows in the Bible are the ultimate before-givers.  They give before they get. 


"St. Elizabeth understood well the lesson Jesus taught when he washed his disciples' feet at the Last Supper: The Christian must be one who serves the humblest needs of others, even if one serves from an exalted position.  Of royal blood, Elizabeth could have lorded it over her subjects.  Yet she served them with such a loving heart that her brief life won for her a special place in the hearts of many.  Elizabeth is also an example to us in her following the guidance of a spiritual director.  Growth in the spiritual life is a difficult process.  We can play games very easily if we don't have someone to challenge us or to share experiences so as to help us avoid pitfalls."   
We are asked to imitate St. Elizabeth and God by exercising a preferential option for the poor in the principles of Catholic Social Teaching.  As followers of Christ, we are challenged to make a preferential option for the poor, namely, to create conditions for marginalized voices to be heard, to defend the defenseless, and to assess lifestyles, policies and social institutions in terms of their impact on the poor. The option for the poor does not mean pitting one group against another, but rather, it calls us to strengthen the whole community by assisting those who are most vulnerable.
As we enter Thanksgiving Week and the holiday season, how will you exercise your stock options in the poor, the Hurricane victims from Breezy Point to Haiti, the most vulnerable and the widows in our lives?  "Please help them in a way worthy of God to continue their journey." 

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