32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Posted: Sat, 06 Nov 2021 12:44
In the spirit of the Beatitudes, this week we are given the image of the poor widow and her offering in the Temple. The icon of 'the widow' is important in Jewish spirituality: the widow is seen as having nobody to turn to—she is in need of support and encouragement, and utterly dependent on the love of God. In our first reading, the prophet Elijah offers hope to the widow—he shows her that all is not lost if she is prepared to offer something from her poverty. Jesus deliberately reaches out to those on the edges of society. In the gospels we read of encounters with lepers, prostitutes, pagan foreigners and, today, the poor widow.
Jesus warns his disciples to be conscious of hypocrisy that religion can often attract. Jesus makes it very clear:
'Watch out for the teachers of the Law, who like to walk around in their long robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplace, who choose the reserved seats in the synagogues and the best places at feasts. They take advantage of widows and rob them of their homes, and then make a show of saying long prayers. Their punishment will be all the worse' (Mk 12:38-40).
As we are only too well aware, this religious hypocrisy is not reserved to the Jewish faith. Christianity can be just as bad in attracting those who like to be 'seen' practicing their faith: as Christians, we are called not just to 'talk the talk' but 'walk the walk' too! We know those who want the best seats and like to be greeted by their titles or wear their kingly robes so that they can stand out and be noticed in church. Jesus tells us that it is not about appearance, it is about our attitudes—those beatitudes we were reminded about last week.
In his final journey to Jerusalem, Jesus is in the great Temple: with his disciples, he notices the great and good of Jewish society making their offerings. It is in this context that Jesus introduces us to the poor widow who 'came along and dropped in two little copper coins, worth about a penny' (Mk 12:42). Jesus acclaims only her for generosity because 'this poor widow put more in the offering box than all the others' (Mk 12:43). Jesus sees her total giving as an example to us all: 'for the others put in what they had to spare of their riches; but she, poor as she is, put in all she had—she gave all she had to live on' (Mk 12:44).
There is a danger that we can see this living parable as just about money. The widow is the epitome of what it is to be generous. During this coming week, we will all have ample opportunities to show generosity especially in giving our time and energy to others. We will have numerous opportunities to show acts of random kindness that will make our community so much better. Please do not be like those who just want to take all the time. If you want to discover the really generous ones in your parish, look at those who stay behind after a function to help with clearing up. We can all be there in the good times, dancing and eating the good food, it takes the generosity of the widow to roll up your sleeves and mop the floors and clean out the toilets.
Jesus is calling for a generosity of spirit—you may feel that you might not have much to give, but it can be transformed. Like the widow today and the boy with his lunch of loaves and fishes, today's gospel invites us all to share that unconditional and lasting love of God. Your generosity can change somebody's life today—are you prepared to get off the fence and choose to be generous. Thomas Merton reminds us that it is in this divine generosity that we learn to be grateful for the goodness of our lives:
To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us - and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.
Author: Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB