In the first reading, I found myself drawn to the passages that mentioned that a time would come when people would be so full of their own desires that they would find themselves constantly seeking wisdom in new teachers, new messages and new truths. I think we are all susceptible to this, especially as we hear about the latest book or speaker or celebrity personality that offers a new snipit of insight into living life more fully and meaningfully. I remember a time when I was in graduate school and I visited Sedona, Arizona. I really like nature and before I knew it, I was carrying rose quartz in my pocket, hoping to foster love in my relationship with my boyfriend. For awhile, I thought that it could not hurt to carry that quartz and who knew, but maybe it would do some good afterall. The Catholic faith, both in Scripture and tradition, is clear about magic and without realizing it, I inadvertently became an example of what Paul meant when he said folks would stop listening to the truth and be diverted by a myth. Luckily, in this example, I can add a happy ending: although I kept that rose quartz in my pocket for a long time, it became a simple symbol for me of the importance of my boyfriend and our relationship. I realized that rose quartz having special properties in and of itself was not consistent with my faith. But, this reading today has me wondering once again. Do I have any new “rocks” in my pocket? Do you?
The gospel reading contrasts the scribes from the poor widow. The scribes were so intent on following the letter of the law that it consumes them and they forgot the very purpose of the law in the first place. They serve as a prime example of Paul’s admonition against following one’s own desires and having insatiable curiosity. Their seeking out places of honor and engaging in unjust acts under the guise of the law again point to how one can lose sight of the truth even as one is convinced he or she “has it.”
On the other hand, giving when one can be justified in holding back and giving what will not be recognized by others is a different story. Jesus points out that she gave all she had and by doing so, her gift is actually of the most value. Although it is unlikely I will ever be a poor widow, Jesus offers me consolation for the occasions in which I give of myself though I feel like I have nothing more to give. In my case, these occasions are tied to my time and energy, such as listening to a friend on the phone discuss a difficult personal issue even though I feel I am at the end of my rope myself. Parents especially should take comfort in Jesus’ words - you meet your children’s needs even when you deny your own needs to do so. I like how a friend of my described it: if you are a parent, your children’s needs become your needs. Like the widow, parents give when they have little left themselves. And like the widow, Jesus suggests your gift is more valuable than the things you share with your children from your plentitude. How consoling!
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