Today’s post is from guest contributor Grace Doerfler. Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, Grace is a senior at the University of Notre Dame, where she studies history and Africana studies.
Today’s liturgical readings can be found by clicking here.
In today’s first reading, the story of the widow and Elijah, we learn something about the way God cares for us, and how community is integral to the love God extends to us.
Although we never learn the widow’s name, she is the model of faith in this story from the first Book of Kings. Elijah begs her for food and drink, telling her that God will reward her. And though she does not have enough for the prophet, nor for herself and her son, she gives with generosity and trust. The woman takes an immense risk. She offers everything that she has left to give, a choice that surely came with fear. I imagine what might have been going through her head: What if what I have to offer isn’t enough? What if it’s not good enough? Can I really afford to do this? Can I believe Elijah’s promise? The stakes are high: her own life and that of her son are on the line.
But because of her act of faith in God’s providence, all of them have enough: “She was able to eat for a year, and he and her son as well; the jar of flour did not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, as the LORD had foretold through Elijah” (1 Kgs 17:15b–16). Out of her act of hospitality, God nurtures all the people whom she holds dear.
I can relate to the widow’s fear that what I have to offer is insufficient. Like many LGBTQ people of faith, I know the feeling of showing only the parts of myself that I think will be accepted—whether in school, in faith communities, among family or friends, or in my own heart. It’s scary to think of letting my whole self be seen, even by God; difficult to believe that I can be fully myself and still loved by God.
But today’s readings teach us that God is interested in receiving all of who we are, not just what we might deem safe to offer. From the miracle in today’s first reading, we learn that not only can we survive in God’s care, but we have enough to offer others, too: God provides enough not only for the woman, but also for her son and for Elijah. Out of her act of hospitality, God nurtures the whole community to which she belongs.
This woman’s example of generous faith challenges me to reflect more deeply on how God communicates through our relationships, inviting us to be fully known by God and others. While fear isolates me from my communities and from God, this story teaches me to think of how God works in the communities to which I belong—as part of the LGBTQ community, as a person of faith, in relationship to my loved ones and friends.
My university’s LGBTQ student group hosts a weekly meeting for students to connect with friends, relax, and feel safe among fellow LGBTQ and ally students. I don’t go every week, but when I do, I am reminded of how easy it is to see the Holy Spirit in these gatherings: in the affectionate warmth with which students treat each other, in the broad umbrella of welcome that encompasses the room, in the lightness and laughter that spill out across campus when we disperse. The Spirit draws people together to create something greater than the sum of the individuals.
God likewise speaks through the widow’s act of faith, transforming what she has into something greater than what is humanly possible. The woman’s hospitality reflects God’s own generosity. Her act of kindness to Elijah blossoms into sustenance for the three of them for a miraculous amount of time. God’s providence overflows, always with room for more to find shelter.
And God speaks through Elijah, too, showing God’s love to the widow. God chooses him to communicate to the woman that she need not fear, that God will provide for her. Elijah reminds me that God’s presence is just as alive in our relationships today.
In the Elijahs around us—the ones who help us not to fear, the ones who brighten our days—we encounter God’s love. I think of the people who have helped me to feel less afraid of integrating my sexuality and my faith. I think of the Catholics who, when they learn that I’m lesbian, tell me that I have a home in the church. I think of the LGBTQ Catholics who have drawn me out of fear and into the glad claiming of my identity. All of these people have extended God’s love to me.
God’s wish for us is never fear, but community. Each person who offers us authentic community—whether a friend, a family member, a fellow LGBTQ person, an ally, or an affirming teacher or minister—reflects the overflowing love God has for the fullness of who we are, including our identities as LGBTQ people of faith.
In the same way that the trust the widow and Elijah place in each other enables both of them to find themselves safe, loved by God and protected by their communities, our own relationships are a source of sustenance and a pathway to deeper relationship with God.
God’s goodness blesses LGBTQ lives, and in turn, we are invited to go and respond like the generous widow: to reflect that goodness out into our communities, beyond the limits of what we may have believed possible.
–Grace Doerfler, November 7, 2021