|The Thirty-second Sunday in
First Kings 17:10-16
Psalms 146:7, 8-9, 9-10
Mark 12:38-44 or 12:41-44
We hear a “Chicken Soup-for-the-Soul” kind of story in today’s First Reading. Elijah has been told by God to go to Zaraphath where he will find a widow. It is a time of deep drought in Israel and when Elijah arrives at the gate of that city, sure enough, there is the widow preparing for her final meal for her and her son and then they will die, because of their poverty.
The story then takes the dramatic turn by Elijah’s asking her to give him a cake and some water. Because he is a holy man, she fills his order and thereby receives a year’s supply of flour, oil and water as well as more of life. God again proves faithful to promises made and trusted.
In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus’ observations on one of His favorite topics, outsidedness versus insidedness. Elsewhere in the Gospels we hear about those who sit in the front rows so as to be seen, or parade around with their prayer shawls fluttering so that all will see them and be impressed. Jesus has eyes which are more fixed on the “why” than the “what” of human actions.
While commenting on the scribes, who look good in the eyes of the public, but treat the poor widows unjustly, Jesus sitting near the temple treasury, sees a widow arrive with her two coins. The rich had dropped in large sums before her, but Jesus takes notice, not of them, but her inner spirit, her “why.” She gave of her “whole livelihood,” by donating all that she had.
The celebrities of the Gospels differ from those of the cultural scriptures of today. We are asked to make much of much. Those who have done great physical feats or financial deeds get on the morning talk shows for a while and then fade into the hungry-history of yesterday. We as a cultural Circus Maximus keep chanting, “But what have you done for us today?!”
The widows and orphans of the Scriptures were considered the poorest and in most need of care. This widow of today’s Gospel represents all that is needy and much loved of our human condition. Jesus makes much of the little and little of the much about which this world celebrates. This widow reveals the truth with which she lives. She is a “two-coin” person in the eyes of all, including Jesus. He calls His disciples to Him and instructs them about what exactly are they seeing here. We can assume that they, being more and more poor themselves by following Jesus, have been marveling at the amounts of money the rich are putting into the treasury. Jesus calls our attention to the “two-coin” woman of whom Jesus makes much. Her little amount, amounts to much and we are invited to reflect on how God’s love embraces all, even that which goes unnoticed and uncelebrated.
It is assumed that Jesus is not advising us to decrease our contribution in today’s offertory collection. This is not about money, but about something within our experience of being humans which desperately desires some kind of experience of greatness or achievement. We can tend to experience our simplicity, frailty and poverty of all kinds, so that we want to amount to something, some way. Having celebrities in our cultures can help us for a while think that we really do have something worth while. “Hurray for them,” but what about poor little me. They who parade around in their achievements make me feel worser.
The widow, the coins, the rich and famous, they are all the same
in the loving eyes of Jesus. Beneath and within, we are all the same.
We stand so loved and those who experience that love don’t need achievements
to celebrate their lives except by living and giving their goodness.
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