One of my bad habits is to drive around until there is barely any gas left in my car. I mean I literally put off going to the gas station until the last possible second. I’ll pull all tricks and life-hacks too:
— I’ll turn off the air-conditioning. Apparently that might do something? ….Maybe?
— I’ll coast down hills to conserve fuel.
— I’ll start driving much less aggressively — something I probably should be doing ALL the time.
My family used to joke that I must think the “E” on the fuel gauge stands for “ENOUGH.”
Now, this is a bad habit… WHY?
Because I could easily get stranded somewhere! I could run out of gas and be left in the middle of nowhere… And nobody wants to be helpless like that. Nobody wants to be stuck. That’s scary.
I get the feeling that a LOT of us right now are “running low on gas” in our lives. So many people I hear from tell me their tank is just about at empty. It’s been a tough couple of years.
Many of us have lost loved ones recently.
Many members of our community have received difficult diagnoses.
Many of our families are experiencing the grief and pain of miscarriage, the threat of losing their jobs over vaccine mandates, uncertainty surrounding future plans, finances, health, education…
I know that a lot of Catholics were angry and scandalized after our President met with the Holy Father, Pope Francis — So many people feel hurt and confused by the Church’s refusal to call EVERY Catholic, including those politicians who support anti-Catholic views, to true contrition, repentance, sacramental confession, and a conversion of heart prior to ANY of us receiving Holy Communion.
Vague wishy-washiness — a desire to play it “safe,” to be “nice” to everyone, to not rock the boat often seems like our top priority. And all the while, the faith of millions of Catholics is suffering.
All of that is exhausting. And for many of us, the tank is close to empty.
And maybe you’re sitting there in your pew wondering: Am I going to run out? Am I going to be stranded somewhere in the middle of nowhere?
But here’s the thing you need to hold on to:
There is always hope. There is always a way forward. No matter what — you always have enough in the tank to make it to your destination… if you only choose to trust in the Lord.
We heard two stories from Sacred Scripture today that teach us this crucial lesson in different ways.
The first is the story of the widow of Zarephath. The prophet Elijah comes to town, and asks this widow for some water and a little cake of bread. The widow replies:
“Sorry Elijah, but I don’t have enough gas in the tank! We’re in the middle of a drought and famine. I was just about to bake some bread with the last of our supplies, and when we have eaten, my son and I will die. We’re stuck. We’re stranded.”
Elijah replies in boldness of faith: “Do not be afraid.” Go and bake something for yourself and for me” — and then he promises her something truly amazing! He promises her a miracle: “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.’”
In other words, Elijah is saying: Despite all of the evidence — your tank won’t run out!
DO NOT BE AFRAID!
The second story comes from our gospel, where we hear of that Poor Widow, who, as Jesus points out, “put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury” because they only “contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, contributed all she had.”
Pay attention! Do you realize what’s going on here? The rich people, even though they are putting large sums of money into the treasury, are still TERRIFIED… they are AFRAID of giving too much.
They were thinking: “Well, skimming off the top is the wise thing to do. Let’s be reasonable! After all, I don’t want to give too much that it actually hurts… I don’t want my tank to get too low… I need to make sure I have enough, don’t I! I don’t want to be STRANDED, do I?”
But the Poor Widow is free from all that self-centered fear and lack of faith. She loves God, and as we know… perfect love casts out fear — So she, unlike all those stingy rich people, has the courage and the freedom to give everything she has! She only has two tiny coins to her name, but she’s still willing to go empty.
Both of these stories make it clear that we should never be afraid to give God what little we do have. Because the Lord DOES notice. He DOES see you, and He DOES reward your sacrificial generosity
So I encourage you… Give God what little gas you do have left in the tank.
Don’t be afraid. Don’t hide it away in shame or self-preservation. Don’t cling on to it. That is a sure way to lose your faith and give in to despair.
Remember — “Whoever tries to save his life, will lose it.” It is only by forfeiting our lives, emptying ourselves, throwing our entire weight onto God, emptying the tank — that we will ever taste grace.
That’s the mystery of the Lord’s Cross, isn’t it? Jesus himself experienced an empty tank on Calvary. He loved us to the end, seemingly stranded up there on the Cross. But God never once abandoned him. Though he yelled out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” — deep down Christ knew that God the Father would provide Him with Victory.
We must learn to imitate and be empowered by Jesus on the Cross.
Rather than moan and complain about how tired and empty we are, we need to boldly spend ourselves in prayer, sacrifice and charity anyways. What’s holding you back? What do you have to lose by giving everything — your whole heart, the last drop of gas in the tank — to the God who loves you?
This life is really quite small in the grand scheme of things — it is a mere breath! Our lifespan on this planet is a tiny, microscopic particle in comparison to the overwhelming vastness of the unending, everlasting life. However many years we are given on this rock we call Earth, they are really only a little cake. They are really only two widow’s mites.
So give them to God.
Now of course, none of this will make sense unless we have been given supernatural faith…unless we really believe that there is something more than what we can see, smell, taste, and feel.
The widow at Zarephath could not see with her own eyes, or confirm with the power of logic that the flour and the oil would not run out. The widow who put the two small coins in the treasury could not have possibly guessed that the Son of God would see and praise her extravagant sacrifice.
Those women had to make their sacrifices from the darkness of faith.
And you and me both are invited to do the same here and now. We are called to live our lives from the supernatural faith we were given at our baptism. We need to cultivate and foster that supernatural perspective in our own lives. Because when you look at things only through a superficial, secular, Godless lens, then life IS hopelessly overwhelming and we DO NOT have ENOUGH in the tank to make it through.
But by the light of faith, we know: God will never leave us stranded!
Despite all the evidence stacked against us, God upholds His end of the deal. He provides. As our psalm today put it, “He is faithful forever. He sets captives FREE…”
Free from what?
Free from all fear.
Free from the terror of being lonely, of being lost, of being unworthy.
Free from hopelessness.
Free from atheism.
Free from addiction.
Free from panic, pessimism, and undue suspicion.
Free from any unjust law or corrupt politician.
Free from the violence, scandal, and the confusion of our times.
Free from Sin and Hell and Death itself!
Free to worship God, without fear — holy and righteous — all the days of our lives.
In the spirit of that freedom, let us now turn to the Altar of God in fearless and supernatural faith, and give the little bit of gas we have left to the Lord.
In return, we will be fed to the full with the Bread of Angels.
So have faith. Do not be afraid. — The Lord always provides.