Longboarding. Slacklining. Free climbing. Kiteboarding. BASE jumping. Extreme sports are dangerous. That’s why they’re such a kick. Fear pumps adrenaline.
There’s a high that comes from riding the fear and breaking through ordinary limits. The observer senses the fear and admires the movement. The exhilaration, though, belongs to the athlete alone.
Extreme trust in God looks scary, too, because it too is dangerous. The displays of “stranger welcoming” in the first reading and of “contributing everything” in the Gospel are almost foolish. Starvation is as close to the participants as the cliff is alongside the longboarder accelerating down the hill.
The two biblical athletes are at the end of their resources. One is caught up in a famine. Her kitchen contains one last meal. Why would she share it with a visitor?
The other is surrounded by wealth but has nothing. Why should she give her last dollar to God’s temple? It doesn’t need it. It’s already one of the most splendid buildings in the world. Rich people are always sacrificing animals there and going home to lavish dinners.
What led these women to this extreme behavior?
You’re asking me? I’m just an observer. I don’t do extreme sports, or extreme trust in God either. I look at these women, feel the danger and am amazed.
They must have discovered something, experienced something. Otherwise why would doing what was so humane and generous look so good to them?
“I never met this man before. He’s a foreigner. Who knows if his God can multiply flour and oil? But he asked me for food, and I will share my last meal with him.”
“I’m broke, but what I do with my last dollar is my business. And what I really want to do with it is give it to God. So there it goes into the collection box.”
These women do it, decisively, without looking back. The kite goes up, the wind grabs it, the board leaps forward across the water.
How did they do it? As they looked at their situations, God must have been in their hearts, and they said, “Yes, absolutely,” to him.
I bet they experienced something greater than mere exhilaration.