The first reading (1 Kings 17:10-16) is from a group of books in the Bible called History. History writing is always subjective and selective, as the author or editor wants to make some point or other; stories and anecdotes are retold to fit in with what the writers or editors think and want to tell their readers. The story we read today is to illustrate how God deals with people; Elijah His prophet had to announce the drought on the land as God’s response to the peoples’ unfaithfulness, but he himself would be cared for by God through a good-living woman whom God would reward appropriately. We could speculate what tale is behind this and how it got into this history, and it may help us get something of the message, but more important is what it now says to us. It is a message about God’s care for those who are chosen by him and for those who care for their fellow human beings whatever their situation is; and it says something about the ‘natural’ disasters that might be caused by human misuse of earth’s resources.
The second reading (Hebrews 9:24-28) continues the thoughts about the Jewish Temple priesthood and the role of Christ in our salvation. It is an exposition of the relationship between the time and activity of Jesus with the period before His coming and the fulfilling of His human life – the difference between the Jewish situation and that of the Christians; the former is like a shadow and the latter is the real thing itself. So there is just one death to seal the covenant (the agreement between God and people) instead of regular sacrifices by different priests; the old covenant is replaced by the New Testament era. There is now hope for those who die, of forgiveness and life with God after death, secured by the entry of Jesus as one of us into heaven whence He came. Once the Jewish Temple was destroyed in the year 70 AD their religion left behind all this activity of sacrifice and benefitted from the change; but a Christian’s sacrifice should be the way one lives for others – not a death but a way of life!
The third reading (Mark 12:38-44) expresses the Christian teaching about the style of life one should have, and its driving force. So Mark tells of Jesus speaking against those Scribes who gad about in fine attire, seek the admiration of people and honour amongst others, who take advantage of the defenseless and perform elaborate prayers. But Mark doesn’t mean this to apply to all Scribes for he has written just before this how Jesus praised one of them (the gospel for the 31st Sunday cycle B). But Mark’s story is drawing towards the end of Jesus’ life and it is becoming more urgent for certain points to be made. Hence Jesus goes on to praise a demur and self-effacing approach with minimal material value yet expressing a genuine and generous religious attitude; He goes on to contrast the supposedly religious experts and officials with a financially poor yet spiritually devout widow. This expresses in practical terms what was expressed more theoretically the the reading we had from the letter to the Hebrews.