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Mark 12:38-44

The Word of God

As he taught, he said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’

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.’

Mark 12:38-44
  • Some thoughts on today's scripture

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    • Our age, even more than the time of Jesus, is so obsessed with image that it becomes the most important feature for our leaders, even more than their message or vision. I listen to Jesus’ words which are such a real challenge to this culture, and to his warning to beware not to be taken in by these antics.
    • Jesus proclaims that the woman who put in two small copper coins had given more than all the rich people. In a very real way it is a summary of the whole Gospel, for God looks at the heart and its readiness to give generously. Do I measure my worth by my external success, or am I free to look at my heart and be ready to be generous even in my poverty? I ask God to help me look at myself and at others as he looks at us.
  • Some thoughts on today's scripture

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    • We think of love as spontaneous, so a commandment to love seems strange at first sight. Being made in the image of God who is love, with hearts of love, we have the desire and capacity to develop that gift. But we are frail, with selfish tendencies to go our own way. True love is a decision to respond generously even when we do not feel like it.
    • ‘Love God!’ This seems easy. ‘Love your neighbour!’ This is harder. ‘Love yourself!’ This seems alien to the Gospel, but there is a healthy self-love that acknowledges God’s creative love in ourselves. God sees all that is made, including me, and says it is very good. Can I accept this gift happily?
  • Some thoughts on today's scripture

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    • Widows are mentioned in both sections of this gospel. They represent the poorest and most vulnerable people in society. But those who "devour widows' houses", who multiply their sufferings, can be seen strutting around in public, even praying in public, seeking to be honoured. Such hypocrisy is hateful to Jesus.
    • Then Jesus sees a poor widow putting her last couple of small coins ("all she had to live on") into the temple treasury. He is astounded and contrasts her generosity with the disposition (not necessarily bad) of the rich who made large offerings "out of their abundance". Implicitly he may be criticising the religious authorities for the pressure they put on people to part with what they cannot afford.
    • Do I appreciate the qualities that can be found in the widows (and other poor) of my world?
  • Some thoughts on today's scripture

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    • Scribes played an important role in Jewish society as lawyers and theologians. Jesus does not condemn all scribes but only those who live ostentatiously, seek social privileges, defraud the vulnerable (widows) and are hypocritical in their religious observance.
    • This behaviour contrasts with the portrait of the poor widow in the second half of the reading. Out of sincere faith and remarkable generosity she contributes all she owns (two small copper coins) to the upkeep of the Temple. But is Jesus holding her up as a model to be imitated or as a victim of religious exploitation? Is he speaking words of praise or of lamentation?
  • Some thoughts on today's scripture

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    • Again Jesus challenges convention by praising the generosity of the poor over the pomposity of the rich. The widow is humble and self-forgetful. She does not know it, but she is living out the powerful message of the Beatitudes: Blessed are the poor. Blessed are the meek.
    • What values do I use to measure success? Are my thoughts on success in tune with God’s?
  • Some thoughts on today's scripture

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    • Of the Ten Commandments, Jesus speaks of two that are the most important, love of God and love of neighbour. If we can manage to keep these two, then automatically we will keep the other eight! If we love God, then we will see Him in others and treat them justly and honourably and in so doing we will not hurt our neighbour but do our best to live in peace with them.
    • Jesus, help us to be alert to our selfishness and our judgemental attitudes towards others. We are far from loving our neighbour as ourselves and yet that is what you ask us to do. We cannot love you and act with thoughtlessness to our neighbour, so teach us Lord your ways.
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    • Honours and titles are hard hit in the Gospels. Seeking after them is at variance with the way of Jesus. Seeking attention for oneself is not the way he treads. In the Passion he becomes a ‘nobody’, the servant of all, the person at the bottom of the human pyramid.
    • The poor widow, who would have been despised as such, is in fact the model for a disciple. What the widow gave might seem insignificant to many from the viewpoint of quantity. She is praised for her total generosity in giving all she had, not just what was over and above.
  • Some thoughts on today's scripture

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    • We think of love as spontaneous, so a commandment to love seems strange at first sight. Being made in the image of God who is love, with hearts of love, we have the desire and capacity to develop that gift. But we are frail, with selfish tendencies to go our own way. True love is a decision to respond generously even when we do not feel like it.
    • ‘Love God!’ This seems easy. ‘Love your neighbour!’ This is harder. ‘Love yourself!’ This seems alien to the Gospel, but there is a healthy self-love that acknowledges God’s creative love in ourselves. God sees all that is made, including me, and says it is very good. Can I accept this gift happily?
  • Some thoughts on today's scripture

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    • The big givers may see their name in lights; but for you, Lord, the big giver is the one who gives from the heart. You do not count the coins but the generosity. Yet I need some help in my generosity. The appeals are endless as we learn more of the world's poverty. Perhaps the hardest thing for me to give is my time and energy.
    • Nobody would even know that the widow put anything into the collection box. The coins were small and would make no noise - the large sums were well heard! Jesus recognised her offering, gift and sacrifice. He pointed this out, maybe to her embarrassment. Our work for the Lord may be simple and unknown to all but a very few. It is known to God and in God's sight, this is enough reward. Remember St Ignatius' prayer, 'Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess you have given me: I surrender it all to you to be disposed of according to your will. Give me only your love and your grace; with these I will be rich enough, and will desire nothing more.'
    • Jesus did not seem to believe in appearances. Shows of piety and religiousness did not of themselves impress him. He saw behind the tiny amount of money to the huge generosity of the heart in the case of the poor widow. He declared often that religious appearances can be empty and hypocritical.
    • ‘Servant' can be a bad word - our model of Christian service is the service of Jesus. Without losing his identity he gives his life in loving service, wanting to reach us all. His service is in the cause of faith, compassion, justice and love.
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    • Everything you say, Lord, touches my conscience. You warn me against coveting a posh car (the equivalent of long robes), or front page publicity, or a high public profile. You remind me how women have always been imposed upon by religious charlatans. You tell me that self-advertisement is not a sacred duty but a weakness. You who lived a hidden life for nine tenths of your years on earth, are a model of how to walk humbly before our God.

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