32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
At a church meeting a very wealthy man rose to tell the rest of those present about his Christian faith.
“I’m a millionaire,” he said, “and I attribute it all, to the rich blessings of God in my life. I remember that specific turning point in my faith. I had just earned my first dollar and I went to a church meeting that night. The speaker was a missionary who told us about his work. I knew that I only had a toonie in my pocket and that, I had to either give it all to God’s work, or nothing at all. So, at that moment, I decided to give my whole dollar to the Lord. And God blessed that decision, and that’s why I’m a rich man today.”
When he finished his testimony, there was an awed silence in the church, while he returned to his seat. As he sat down, a woman sitting in the pew behind his, leaned over and said: “I dare you to do it again.” (jokes.christiansunite.com)
Last week, we looked at the reluctance of some who didn’t dare ask Jesus any question. Today instead, in our gospel story, we have the opposite example of a daring woman who has only the two copper coins to her name and places her entire future into the hands of God by giving away what little she had. Two copper coins may not have meant a lot to the temple priests who depended on the treasury for their pay. It may not have meant a lot to the rich people who placed larger amounts in the temple’s treasury in order to feel superior to the rest. It may not have meant a lot to those who viewed giving to the temple treasury as a way of gaining status, recognition, or respect from the temple priests. It sure wasn’t valued by those who gave large amounts to the temple as a means of pacifying their sinful consciences.
But it sure meant a lot to Jesus who applauds her faith, trust, and deep-rooted conviction in the goodness and mercy of God. It sure meant a lot to Christ because he knew that she had no idea where her next meal was coming from or what sort of future lay ahead for her.
It sure meant a lot to Jesus because she was willing to give ‘til it hurt, as a means of demonstrating her complete and utter dependence on God for all her daily needs.
Maybe, at times, we feel a little like that poor widow. Maybe we feel like our lives are spinning out of control or that we just can’t seem to get our heads above water. Maybe we find our lives besieged by tragedy-after-tragedy or feel like we have to deal with them all on our own. Perhaps we feel helpless amid this pandemic, and powerless to keep ourselves totally protected from those around us who don’t take the virus as seriously as we do. Maybe instead, we feel judged and criticized by others for our past mistakes and can’t seem to get a fresh start because of it.
What if all that could change? What if, like that poor widow, we could let God be God and expect God to act in a decisive, transformative manner in our lives? What if we completely trusted in the Lord’s goodness to us and eagerly sought the God who is the source of all strength, hope and consolation to bless our lives abundantly?
That’s what the example of the poor widow invites us to consider! It challenges us to make a complete offering of ourselves to God. It can’t be half-hearted or forced in any way or made, expecting a specific favor in return. This offering can’t be made with the objective of being noted by others, either. No, such an offering has to be made freely, totally, and unconditionally to the Lord, with joy and gratitude in our hearts and a willingness to accept God’s will, come what may.
Jesus lifts up the example of the poor widow for us all because she stands in stark contrast to the scribes who were also gathered in the temple. In Jesus’ view, it’s the scribes who were being hypocritical. They, who were supposed to serve the Lord, were, in fact, making a flashy show out of their supposed service.
They would “walk around in long robes” and seek “to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets.” (Mk 12: 38-39) They’d say long prayers and not think twice about devouring the limited finances of a widow. They’d preach charity to the poor and then they’d spend lavishly on themselves. They fit the classic definition of a hypocrite and Jesus was calling them out on it. In Jesus’ view, there’s no place for hypocrisy among religious leaders. Jesus wanted their actions to be based on a genuine identification with the poor and suffering. He wanted their actions to be based on being able to relate to the struggles and trials of others and being committed to helping them to live a dignified human life. Fundamentally, Jesus wanted their spiritual lives to reflect the priorities and values of the Kingdom of God, through and through.
Maybe, like the scribes, we’re a little hypocritical, at times, ourselves. Maybe we tend to focus a little too much on our own needs, wants, and desires and not so much, on those who are struggling to make ends meet. Maybe we don’t ever consider what it’s like to walk a day in another persons’ shoes and to see the church or “church people” from their perspective. Maybe we tend to rationalize away the apparent needs of the poor or justify our non-involvement in social justice issues because we blame them for their own plight in life or think of them as unmotivated or unwilling to work for a living. Maybe we think that our prayers are enough and we don’t have to get involved in any other way. Maybe we fail to appreciate how our upbringing may have differed from theirs and that the advantages we were given may not have been as readily available to another. Maybe we think that we’re entitled to more because we give more to the church or participate more in the church’s lay ministries.
Acknowledging the scribe in each of us, is also partly the reason why Jesus presents his observations to us in today’s gospel. He wants us to reject such divisive behaviors and instead, to envision the sort of world that the poor widow had in mind.
Consider this question: What if all of us sacrificially gave of our time, talent and personal resources to the Lord and trusted completely in God’s goodness to us? Many of the evils in our world would vanish! Poverty would be severely reduced because we’d willingly help to lift each other up. Hunger would be greatly diminished because we’d share the bountiful harvests of our land with those whose countries lack arable soil for growing and sustaining crops. Disease would be proactively treated because no one would be turned away due to lack of resources for medical care. Violence would be placed in-check as we’d see ourselves as brothers and sisters. Global warming would be reversed as we’d value our stewardship of the planet, and all living things on it. We’d work to end corporate greed and to protect the rights of workers to a just and living wage. We’d look out for the well-being of the most vulnerable populations in our society as well. Religious wars would be a thing of the past, as we’d mutually respect religious differences and strive to celebrate the common ground that all religious groups share.
In these and many other ways, we’d be living the vision of the Kingdom of God which Jesus proclaimed by his life, death, and resurrection! We’d be living a life of faith that would truly attract others to the Lord and to his one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. May we never hold back from giving of ourselves to God! May we never hesitate to extend a helping hand to someone in need! May we never doubt God’s care and concern for every aspect of our lives! May we be daring enough to give the Lord our all, even our last two copper coins!
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