All Her Substance

She has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood. (Mark 12:44)

If you are like me, Christ’s words here make you think of the first section of Pope Benedict’s encyclical on Christian hope. The poor woman at the Temple treasury gave her whole “substance.” In English, this word “substance” means a number of different things. The same is true of Latin and Greek.

The substance of one’s livelihood refers to one’s material means. In the first reading for Mass, we read about the widow who had been reduced to poverty by a drought. As we hear her explain to the prophet Elijah, she was a woman of very little “substance.”

When the prophet asked for food, she said, “How can I provide for you, and my son, and myself, when all I have is a handful of flour, and no hope of getting any more?”

But Elijah said: Faith is the substance of things hoped for. Faith is a substance.

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