He sat down opposite the treasury
and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury.
Many rich people put in large sums.
A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents.
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.
For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth,
but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole
This passage is
probably very familiar; it’s often called “The Widow’s Mite” (mite meaning a
very small sum of money). We hear of the widow’s sacrifice, giving out of
her poverty contrasted with the wealthy contributors, giving from their
surplus. Sometimes this story is referenced when we’re asked to “dig deep”
as this widow did, to contribute to some cause. That’s all well and good,
but if we fail to “dig deeper,” we could miss the more important lessons.
It might seem that
the focus is on material poverty versus wealth, but Jesus is not passing
judgment on the wealthy contributors. They may be good and generous people.
The more important aspect of poverty in this story is the widow’s spiritual
poverty—her total reliance on God for her wellbeing—that is the greater
sacrifice. The large sums dropped into the treasury by the wealthy and the
lengthy prayers recited by the scribes ring hollow when compared to her true
show of faith.
Another aspect that might be
overlooked is the widow’s dignity, her desire to be seen as part of the
community. Although the Torah emphasizes the care of widows, these women and
their children are vulnerable and looked down upon. By adding her pittance
to the treasury, she asserts for herself the right to be recognized. While
hers is truly an act of faith in God, she is also making a statement: “I am
here. I am a contributing member. I am not invisible, nor am I going away.”
I like to think she sees Jesus observing her. I like to think she knows
that, to him, her contribution matters the most.
Living the Word…
Before we go digging deep into our pockets, how about if we dig deeper into
our hearts? Ask yourself: What would “hurt” me to give up, or better yet,
what am I willing to sacrifice in order to let God be in control? For some,
material wealth can be the stumbling block, but for many people, I’d venture
to say control is a bigger issue. Think about selecting something small,
some situation that has you tied up, heels dug in, and ready for battle.
Consciously turn to God and hand the whole thing over to him. Do it
for real, not for show. Every time it creeps back in, take some deep breaths
and say, “Here you go, God. You’ve got this.” Do it as many times as you
need to and see what happens. Trust God, for goodness sakes. He’s got this.
“And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times
saying, 'I am sorry,' you should forgive him." And the Apostles said to the
Lord, "Increase our faith."(Lk
US Roman Catholic Bishops meet this week in Baltimore, MD, close to where I
live. Today’s lectionary readings are pointed and powerful; the Spirit is
speaking, and I pray the bishops listen well. Jesus tells us that sin will
inevitably occur and we must be on our guard. But he also talks about
forgiveness, so it’s no surprise the Apostles then ask for him to increase
their faith: ‘Increase our faith, Lord, because we have no capacity to
forgive over and over again like you say we’re supposed to!’ Final judgment
is in the hands of God; only God knows the sincerity of the human heart.
When sin is grave, atonement is called for. But real, true healing can only
be achieved through forgiveness. ‘Increase our faith, Lord, so that we can
be forgiving like you.’
“…older men should be temperate, dignified,
self-controlled… older women should be reverent in their behavior, not
slanderers, not addicted to drink…Urge the younger men, similarly, to
(Ti 2: 1-8, 11-14)
you ever considered what a dramatic change Christianity was for the Gentile
converts? Here Paul is instructing Titus to try and keep the Cretan
Christians in line. Many of these new Christian communities were moving
from a pagan lifestyle and environment, with multiple gods and festivals,
etc., etc. We may encounter something similar now. The culture and
surrounding environment in which faith is practiced can be different from
community to community. Poor urban and rural faith communities deal with
societal issues of which suburban communities have no idea. Regardless of
where we practice, the radical demands of Christianity are tough. Let’s make
sure we respect each other and the unique challenges we face in being
“They are to slander no
one, to be peaceable, considerate, exercising all graciousness toward
Well, here’s a novel idea! How about instead of “living in malice and
envy, hateful ourselves and hating one another,” we try Paul’s advice.
Here’s my challenge for today: I will try my best to keep from uttering
anything negative about: my country, the Church, the government, the world,
the weather, the traffic, my family, myself. Yes, I am even going to be
gracious towards myself. Are you up for the challenge too?
The LORD secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets captives free. The LORD gives sight to the blind… The LORD
protects strangers. The fatherless and the widow he sustains… (Ps 146)
Isn’t it nice
that the Lord takes care of all this? The hungry get fed, the blind see,
strangers are protected. Really, what is left for us to do when God does it
all? “Christ has no body but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes with which he looks with compassion upon this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good, yours are the hands with
which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, and
yours are the eyes. You are his body.” (St. Teresa of Avila)
my heart I treasure your promise, that I may not sin against you.”(Ps
think you’ve read the psalms so many times, there is nothing new to find,
and then a little gem like this pops up. I love the imagery of treasuring
God’s promise, and I love the lesson: if we hold his promise in a special
place in our heart—not hidden away, but active and alive--that promise will
be a source of strength against temptation and sin. “Enter
eagerly into the treasure house that is within you and you will see the
things that are in heaven; for there is but one single entry to them both.
The ladder that leads to the Kingdom is hidden within your soul . . . Dive
into yourself, and in your soul you will discover the stairs by which to
(St. Isaac of Nineveh)
“Beloved, you are faithful in all you do for the brothers and sisters,
especially for strangers...help them in a way worthy of God to continue
their journey....support such persons, so that we may be co-workers in the
truth.” (3 Jn 5-8)
John is writing to one, Gaius, likely a Gentile Christian from Asia Minor.
The strangers he’s referring to are missionaries from other Christian
communities. When I first read this passage (without context), I thought
about the refugee “caravan” approaching the US border. The early Christian
communities were leery of strangers. They could be false prophets or
infiltrators sent in to unmask the new converts. We tell our kids to be wary
of strangers. It’s wise to cautious until we can discern if the stranger is
a co-worker in the truth. And what was the truth the early Christians held?
And that we hold? That Christ will return in glory to judge the nations
based on how they have treated the poor, the prisoner, the stranger.
Cautionary language indeed.