Monday of the Third week of Lent
The faith of the widow of Sarepta, who welcomed the man whom God sent to her
Saint Ambrose (c.340-397), Bishop of Milan and Doctor of the Church On widows; PL 16, 247-276 (trans. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers rev.)
The faith of the widow of Sarepta, who welcomed the man whom God sent to her At that time, when the whole human race was afflicted by famine, Elias was sent to a widow? And see how for each is reserved her own special grace. An angel is sent to the Virgin, a prophet to the widow. In the one case it is Gabriel, in the other Elisha. The most excellent chiefs of the number of angels and prophets are seen to be chosen! But there is no praise simply in widowhood, unless there be added the virtues of widowhood. For, indeed, there were many widows, but one is preferred to all, by whose example of virtue they are stimulated... The grace of hospitality is not lost sight of by God, who, as he himself relates in the Gospel, rewards a cup of cold water with the exceeding recompense of eternity (Mt 10,42), and compensates the small measure of meal and oil by an unfailing abundance of plenty... Why consider the fruits of the earth are private, when the earth itself is common property?... But we turn aside the warnings of a general utterance to our private advantage. God says: “Every tree which has in it the fruit of a tree yielding seed shall be to you for food, and to every beast, and to every bird, and to everything that creeps on the earth.” (Gn 1,29-30). By heaping up we come to want and need. For we cannot hope for the promise if we do not keep God’s will. It is also good for us to attend to the precept of hospitality, to be ready to give to strangers, for we, too, are strangers in the world. How holy was that widow, who, when pinched by extreme hunger, observed the reverence due to God! She was not using the food for herself alone, but was dividing it with her son. A beautiful example of tenderness but even more of faith! She should not have set anyone before her son, yet she set the prophet of God her own preservation. You may well believe she not only gave him a little food, but all she had to live on. She kept nothing back for herself. So hospitable was she that she gave all she had, so full of faith that her trust was total.