I charge you ... proclaim the word; be persistent ... convince, reprimand, encourage. ... For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth. 2 Timothy 4.
Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation. Mark 12
Paul's encouragment and challenge to Timothy to be an evangelist, without fear, and full of courage, gave me some encouragment to not be afraid of today's gospel.
I imagine Jesus' being really hard on the religious leaders of his day. The long robes, the honors they receive so willingly, really clashed in Jesus' heart with the way the same religious leaders "devour the houses of widows," and at the same time, "as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers." Jesus is so clear throughout the gospels: being "religious" ought to make us nice people, kind people, compassionate people. Why doesn't it? What goes wrong? What is the temptation to self-righteousness and the externals of religious practice, over and against the a heart like his which is rich in mercy and hearing the cry of the poor?
When the story moves to Jesus' sitting across from the temple treasury, he becomes the teacher who gives us an image to remember for life. Jesus observes that, "Many rich people put in large sums." Then, "A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents." Jesus contrasts those who "contributed from their surplus wealth" and the widow who "from her poverty, has contributed all she had."
There's that honest, challenging, liberating message of Jesus. Having many things makes it difficult to depend upon God alone. Being poor, and placing our lives in God's hands, allows us to keep everything in perspective and to give generously, "and not to count the cost."*
-- St. Ignatius Loyola
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