In those days, Elijah the prophet went to Zarephath. When he arrived at the entrance of the city, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called out to her, “Please bring me a small cupful of water to drink.” She left to get it, and he called out after her, “Please bring along a crust of bread.” She said, “As the Lord, your God, lives, I have nothing baked; there is only a handful of flour in my jar and a little oil in my jug. Just now I was collecting a few sticks, to go in and prepare something for myself and my son; when we have eaten it, we shall die.” Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid. Go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake and bring it to me. Afterwards you can prepare something for yourself and your son. For the Lord, the God of Israel, says: The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the Lord sends rain upon the earth.” She left and did as Elijah had said. She had enough to eat for a long time—he and she and her household. The jar of flour did not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord spoken through Elijah.1 Kings 17:10-16
“Do not be afraid” occurs more often than any other exhortation in the Old Testament, according to Rabbinic scholars. Fear is a debilitating barrier to accomplishing the works of God.
At the brink of starvation, the widow of Zarephath believed the word of the prophet and served him with the last of her provisions. That evening, the trio of Elijah, the widow, and her son celebrated the miraculous, ever-replenishing jar and jug over freshly baked bread.
This Sunday’s Gospel features another magnanimous widow who put in “two small coins,” her whole livelihood, into the temple treasury (Mark 12:41-44). We are not told how God will provide for her, but her silent action bespoke a fearless and indomitable faith. Jesus, the bread of life, commended her to his disciples. The one who fed five thousand with five loaves and two fish will provide for the poor widow as God did through Elijah.
I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.John 6:35