November 11, 2018
32nd Sunday Ordinary Time B
How does Jesus know that the woman who makes an offering is a poor widow and she is giving a few cents? The extensive temple complex includes a “court of the women.” Adjacent to this gathering place is a hall in which visitors to the temple can make offerings of money for upkeep of the sanctuary and its daily sacrifices. This hall is called the “treasury”. Here, offerings are made to the priests who serve at the temple. A priest announces publicly the amount and purpose of the gift. Jesus sees that the women is both poor and a widow by her attire. He hears that her offering is two pennies. It is a very meagre offering in comparison to contributions of others visiting the temple that day.
Jesus points out the poor widow to his disciples and she becomes part of his lesson on giving. In the estimation of Jesus, she is giving far more than wealthy donors who are dressed well and take pride in their contributions. They are giving from their surplus. She is giving from her means, her poverty, her whole living.
We are struck by the contrast in the Gospel according to St. Mark between this woman and some scribes who go around showing off in their robes, being recognized at the market, taking places of honor in the synagogue, saying long prayers and having little empathy for widows. (Jesus is concerned about a similar tendency in his own disciples.) But the generous poor widow is also a Christ figure! The widow’s gift already reflects for Jesus the wholeness of the sacrificial gift of his own life. It illustrates the great commandment that Jesus just quoted in the Gospel last weekend: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”
She is an example for us. She reminds us too of those who sacrifice their lives in protection of our nation in war and in peacekeeping. Last weekend we set our clocks back one hour. Today we observe the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month, one hundred year ago (1918) when the armistice was signed ending WWI. “Veterans Day celebrates sacrifice, and sacrifice is a foundational religious value. Service to one’s country is a sacrifice of personal ambition and it can entail the ultimate sacrifice of one’s life for our country. This sacrifice is built upon the belief that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. In this case, that something bigger is our country, but in a religious setting the something bigger is God.” – Rabbi Marc Gellman in God Squad 11/10/2018.
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