Sunday, November 11, 2012

A handful of flour and a little oil

The first reading for  today's liturgy is the beautiful story of the widow of Zarephath from 1 Kings 10-16.  It is easy for many of us to identify with her.  Her resources have (literally) run out.  Her supply of food and of hope has dried up like a brook without water.  It is then that the prophet, Elijah, appears asking for water. Her poverty does not prevent her from setting out to get the water but when he asks her for bread as well she kind of loses it and lets her desperate state be known.

So what  is it like for you when your resources are meager and someone appears at the door of your heart asking you for something you think you don't have.  The resources may not be food at all;  it may be your time that is being asked for, your ideas and creativity perhaps--and you feel that nothing is left.  You have nothing to give.  At times like this it might be a good idea to go to the window of Zarephath.  When you believe in the "little" you have, it has tremendous potential to increase. When you remember the crumbs of your life, miracles take place:

Having eaten my last crumb
I hear a voice in the wilderness of my heart,
Bring me a little water
the voice pleads.
I am off for the water
when again I am interrupted,
Bring me a scrap of bread
the voice calls.
I freeze inside, barely able to believe
the demands of God.
It is kindness to give someone a drink, yes
But to give out of an empty house is agony.

Someone is asking for a crust of bread
And I have only
a few tears
a handful of flour
a little oil.
The sticks in my hand
are to build a fire,
to bake a few crumbs for myself.
before I die

But the call waits in my soul
like a volcano.
I bake the break in silence
with my few tears
with my handful of flour
with my little oil
The salt from my tears is the seasoning.

The hungry one eats and is nourished.

Suddenly I am hungry no longer
My vessel of flour is undiminished.
My jar of oil never runs dry.

When you have gathered up the crumbs
of all you have and are
And baked  your bread
in the only place left:
the oven of your heart, 
Then you will know what it means
to be bread for the world.

There is a wealth in poverty
that ought not be wasted.
There is a nourishment in crumbs
that ought to be tasted.

--Macrina Wiederkehr, taken from A Tree Full of Angels

Hold this poem up against your life and pray with your own handful of flour and your little oil.  How many loaves can you bake?