Let me share some background I think is needed in order to even begin to talk about today’s gospel. First, the following bit of Jesus’ teaching, or something very much like it, occurs in Mark and Luke just before the story of the widow.
Then, within the hearing of all the people, he said to [his] disciples, “Be on guard against the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and love greetings in 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.” (Luke 20:45-47)
Second, it is less well known that the New Testament was not divided into chapters and verses until Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury established them in or around the year 1227. (A final system of chapters and verses appeared in 1382 with the publication of the Wycliffe English Bible.) What is important about that observation is that the bit of Jesus’ teaching we see above was not separated off in the original writing.
However we interpret Jesus’ remarks about the widow (positively or negatively), they need to be linked to Jesus’ critique of the Scribes.
In any event, what might the common thread be that runs through the two passages? I suggest it is the way these different folks answer the question, “How much is enough?” Which part of the scribes’ life does not allow them to tolerate their ravenous hunger? Or, what is it about the scribes that their hunger conquers a basic and common sense of morality?
What is it about the widow that allows her to tolerate her hunger enough to shed her very livelihood?
In other words, what is the mystery of human hunger, those drives that propel us to action? How is the active sharing of the widow made evident in our lives? How is the avarice of the Scribes revealed in our lives?
It seems to me that both realities function in our hearts. We come before God with divided hearts, that’s for sure. “Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face!” How does the gospel help you stand before God today?