32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
This Sunday in our Gospel reading we read about the Widows mite, that is the widow who gave the temple authorities her last coins. God does not have favourites”, Saint Paul tells us, but God always makes a special place for the poor, and those whom society would push into second place. In the traditions of Israel God invited the people to have special care for the “widows and orphans” – so the story we hear in today’s Gospel would have a particular resonance. The paradox of Christian faith is this: in giving, we receive. Christ gave everything, sacrificing his very life, and in return received a new and unending life. The widow in the first reading gave her last food to the prophet Elijah, and in return received an endless supply. Today’s readings provide a contrast: the self-assured scribes parading their virtue, and the humble widow offering all she had to live on in terms of food and money.
Jesus attacks the HYPOCRISY of those religious people who make an outward show of virtue, but whose hearts are full of GREED. His words against such behaviour are harsh: they will receive a severe sentence. Such texts as this are sometimes used as a pretext for a general denigration of all the teachers of Judaism. We must bear in mind that the gospels also tell us of good and virtuous scribes and Pharisees of which there were many.
Jesus observes the generosity of the poor widow. Unlike the scribes he has previously criticized, she does not trumpet her virtue and in that same vain neither should we. Almost unnoticed, she gives all she can for the upkeep of the temple of God. The widow in Mark’s gospel represented the truly poor, those who can neither speak for themselves nor fend for themselves. She shared what we had for the good of others and the glory of God. We are called to do as much.
The Church identifies itself with the poor. Jesus himself proclaimed the Kingdom as the home of the poor. Throughout the centuries, many faithful people have served the less fortunate. Today, we, as Christians, are called to share our time, talent, and treasure with those who cannot speak for themselves.
The corporal works of mercy (feeding the sick, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the imprisoned and the sick, burying the dead) detail the Church’s love for the poor. These should be at the forefront of Christian activity, not an afterthought. Jesus attacks the hypocrisy and the greed of those who should have known better and he observes the generosity of the poor widow may we be like the poor widow remembering that any love of wealth is inconsistent with our love for the Lord and that we are called to humble service of one another.