Unnoticed

Our gospel is known as the story of the Widow’s Mite. As you just heard, a widow donates two small coins, while wealthy people donate much more. A common explanation of the story is that Jesus praises the poor widow and holds her up as an example to us all because she gave “her whole livelihood.” So even though the rich people gave more, it was just for show and only from their chump change. Not the widow, she is “all in” in what she gives to God. The moral of the story is that small sacrifices of the poor mean more to God than the extravagant donations of the rich. And so, I could have a seat at this point, leave you to think about your weekly offering, your APA pledge… are you giving chump change, or are your contributing your whole livelihood? I could but there is more here than meets the eye. Continue reading

Widow’s Mite: context

Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna38 In the course of his teaching he said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, 39 seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.’ 41 He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. 44 For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.’ (Mark 12:38–44) Continue reading

Widow’s mite: exit

Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, RavennaThe Poor Widow and Jesus. 41 He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. 44 For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.’

We are conditioned to consider that Jesus is continuing his castigation of the scribes (religious leaders who use their position for their own gain) and their social counterparts, many rich people. By juxtaposition we then infer that the poor widow is praised for her giving of her whole livelihood and placing here full dependence upon God. We infer that, and perhaps rightly so, but there are many Continue reading

Widow’s mite: scribes

Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna38 In the course of his teaching he said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, 39 seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.’

There is always a pause when I read this passage. Being a Franciscan Friar, I go around in long robes, inevitably accept greetings as I move out and about, whether I want it or not, I end up in the places of honor at banquets, and in the church, and I occupy the ‘big chair’ reserved for the presider at Mass. During Mass, some parishioners might accuse me of reciting lengthy homilies  (hopefully not as a pretext). The only part for which I am hopefully safe is devouring the houses of widows. Perhaps it is cautionary pause. Continue reading

Widow’s Mite: poverty

Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna42 A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents.

Widows. Lurking in the background of our reading is the first-century Jewish system of levirate marriages (Gen 38 and Deut 25:5-10). In short if a man dies without leaving a son, his widow is forbidden to marry outside his family. One of her deceased husband’s brothers must assume the duty of the levir, taking her as his wife. The first male of this second union is considered the son of the deceased brother. Continue reading

A Shared Vision

Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, RavennaOur gospel is known as the story of the Widow’s Mite. As you just heard, a widow donates two small coins, while wealthy people donate much more. A common explanation of the story is that Jesus praises the poor widow and holds her up as an example to us all because she gave “her whole livelihood.” So even though the rich people gave more, it was just for show and only from their chump change. Not the widow, she is “all in” in what she gives to God. The moral of the story is that small sacrifices of the poor mean more to God than the extravagant donations of the rich. And so I could have a seat at this point, leave you to think about your weekly offering, your APA pledge… are you giving chump change, or are your contributing your whole livelihood? I could (hey I just did!) but there is more here than meets the eye. Continue reading

Widow’s mite: exit

Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, RavennaThe Poor Widow and Jesus. 41 He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. 44 For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.’

We are conditioned to consider that Jesus is continuing his castigation of the scribes (religious leaders who use their position for their own gain) and their social counterparts, many rich people. By juxtaposition we then infer that the poor widow is praised for her giving of her whole livelihood and placing here full dependence upon God. We infer that, and perhaps rightly so, but there are many Continue reading

Widow’s mite: scribes

Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna38 In the course of his teaching he said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, 39 seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.’

There is always a pause when I read this passage. Being a Franciscan Friar, I go around in long robes, inevitably accept greetings as I move out and about, whether I want it or not, I end up in the places of honor at banquets, and in the church, and I occupy the ‘big chair’ reserved for the presider at Mass. During Mass, some parishioners might accuse me of reciting lengthy homilies  (hopefully not as a pretext). The only part for which I am hopefully safe is devouring the houses of widows. Perhaps it is cautionary pause. Continue reading

Widow’s Mite: poverty

Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna42 A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents.

Widows. Lurking in the background of our reading is the first-century Jewish system of levirate marriages (Gen 38 and Deut 25:5-10). In short if a man dies without leaving a son, his widow is forbidden to marry outside his family. One of her deceased husband’s brothers must assume the duty of the levir, taking her as his wife. The first male of this second union is considered the son of the deceased brother. Continue reading

Widow’s Mite: context

Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna38 In the course of his teaching he said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, 39 seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.’ 41 He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. 44 For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.’ (Mark 12:38–44) Continue reading