He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)
Today’s readings immerse us in the life stories of two wonderful widows. Unfortunately we don’t know either of their names. “Do not be afraid!” Elijah says to the widow of Zarephthat. So she went and used her little bit of flour and oil to make a small cake for her son and herself, as well as one for God’s prophet. Miraculously the jar of flour did not go empty nor the jug of oil run dry. This is an important image because, if we are honest, we have to admit that it is in the messiness of our lives, in our deep down longings for some shred of wholeness that God rushes in to find us. God actually makes it possible for us to take down those familiar personal barriers, and then walk forward with renewed energy and hope. Further, without our even noticing it, God ensures that the daily flour and oil we all need do not run out.
So it is with the poor widow who drops a few coins into the temple treasury. To become a widow in the ancient world was truly a frightening prospect because it meant that you had no income, no identity, no one to care for you. But here she is, pretty much giving her whole life savings as a donation for others in need. (If you think about it, we can actually consider this dear woman as a model for Jesus who will shortly give the gift of his very life for others through his dying and rising.)
At various points in our lives, each of us hungers for a sense of direction. We long for health and happiness, and long to know God’s ways. We want the pieces of our lives to fit together. And of course we regularly hunger for love. To fill the void of hunger in their lives, the two widows we meet turn to God. As one puts her few cents into the collection box and the other mixes flour and oil, they actually give everything they possess. Each surrenders life, substance, and love. In return, each of these women finds herself in God’s loving embrace. Today may each of us also recognize just how fortunate we really are. And may this reality stir the embers of our faith to make us truly grateful for all those ways large and small that Jesus Christ transforms our hearts.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team
Lord, in so many ways we are not like the poor widow. If we followed in line after a Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, or Michael Jordan, who dropped huge sums of money in the collection basket, we might judge our gift as inconsequential. We might even sit far away from the super wealthy to avoid embarrassment over our paltry gift. But the widow in Mark’s gospel does not blush over her donation. She is not intimidated by the appearance of greatness. Instead the widow drops her two coins into the treasury and gains a wondrous gift – your tender gratitude and affirmation.
Lord, like the widow, we want to live an authentic life so our choices reflect our gospel values and not the illusion of greatness too often portrayed in our society. And, Lord, we pray for a more generous heart. We want to give not only from our abundance but also from the fundamental possessions we own.
—The Jesuit Prayer TeamPlease share the Good Word with your friends!