St. Mark tells us that one day Jesus was teaching in the Temple. What was he teaching? First, he severely criticized the pretense of religious leaders who looked holy and were respected as they walked around in public. But they were guilty, he says, of "devouring the houses of widows" – as they pretended to say lengthily prayers. They could "devour the houses of widows" because a widow might entrust her finances to these learned scribes for safe keeping, only to be swindled by them. Or, widows might go to these legal experts with problems, but the widows’ opponents, who could pay, got favorable judgments, not the poor widows. And so, Jesus criticized the scribes whom, he says, "devour the houses of widows."
The widow in our story is sometimes used as an example for fund-raisers. Their pitch goes, "See how generous this poor widow was, can you give more for our appeal? Can you be as generous as she was?" Well, Jesus was not a fund-raiser. He was not using the widow as an example of sacrificial giving to stir generous giving on our part. He had just criticized how widows were being taken advantage of. Now he can point to a trusting widow as an example of what he was saying. Did God really want her to contribute all she had – her "whole livelihood?" Wouldn’t God want her well-being and protection from dishonest scalpers, who might keep her few coins for themselves?
Jesus is doing what he always does in the gospels. What catches his eye and draws his heart are those in most need: those who need forgiveness...those who, as in the case of the widow, need someone to take their side, speak up for them, counsel and protect their interests.
That day, as Jesus sat in the temple precincts, what impressed him? What caught his eye? Not the superficial things that impress so many in our world. Not the expensive clothes of the prosperous. Not the high social standing of those scribes. Certainly not their religious airs. Nor the way those scribes, the legal experts, treated widows. Jesus saw what others would have missed, a poorly dressed, sad looking woman with grief written on her face, coming to the Temple. Perhaps she was one who would have been elbowed out of the way to make room for the prominent, well-known benefactors, with gold and silver in their money bags. The widow wasn’t important.
Jesus got up from the place he was sitting and called his disciples. The teacher had a lesson for them. He wanted his disciples to observe what he had observed. Not all the gold and silver in the Temple, not the elaborate priestly vestments and the large books of prayer. He wanted them to take note of the widow. It they were to be his disciples, live his way of life, then the needy and the neglected must come first in their eyes. They were also to see how pure her intentions were as she came to worship God. Among all the so-called religious people there that day, the widow was the one with true religion. She, not the scribes, was the important religious figure in the story. She, not the scribes, was honored by Jesus.
Some people wonder about the things they do in this life. A mother of three asked, "Am I really born to be a housewife and mother? Shouldn’t I be doing something more important?" A man asks, "Did I really come into this world to be a truck driver?" A young woman wonders, "I work in an office. Was I meant to sit in front of a computer all my life?"
Fill in the blanks, because what might to us seem ordinary even, on some days, insignificant, might not be the way Jesus sees our lives. Remember how Jesus described the widow: doing a simple act of love was more important than anything anyone else was doing in that impressive Temple, with all those so-called important people around. We could miss the holiness and significance of our own daily offerings in service to God, family and neighbor. We pray for a renewed gift of the Spirit to open our eyes and ears to see and hear with Jesus’ own eyes and ears
Jesus is about to enter Jerusalem where he, like the widow, is going to give his whole life in worship to God and service for us. In fact, Mark has been showing that Jesus has been giving his life throughout all his ministry, as he: gave his healing touch to the desperate leper; comforted the father and then cured his son rolling in a fit on the ground; fed the crowds who followed him into the desert; tirelessly engaged in arguments with the religious leaders who hounded him, etc.
Jesus’ teaching about the hypocrisy of some religious leaders in his day, might cause us to squirm as modern Catholics, as more and more bad news comes to light about some of our religious leaders. Mark’s gospel is a cautionary tale for us in the church, especially our leaders, ordained and lay, charged with ministering to the faithful.
I don’t know if Jesus had perfect eyesight. If he had lived to my age would he need reading glasses? Some people think he had a perfect body because he didn’t suffer the effects of original sin. But today’s gospel tells us that Jesus used his eyes well. First, he saw those scribes and their hypocrisy. He also saw with a heart filled with compassion and with a keen sense of what was right and what was wrong.
The widow was no stranger to Jesus, because he would see in her what he himself was doing all along: he too had been giving all that he had and would continue to do so, till he gave all of his life for us in Jerusalem. We receive Jesus at this Eucharist so that, like him, we can give our lives in service to those he was always pointing out to us, as he did for his disciples – the least in our midst.
Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
"The Lord sets captives free."
Do you know who else can set captives free? Each of us can, starting with viewpoints that may hold us captive and may be leading us down a path away from our Lord. One of the best ways to free ourselves is to read and study materials from qualified resources. Take the subject of historic and systemic racism that can feel overwhelming to consider.
Just this year, the Archdiocese of Louisville created a new resource titled: "Walking in My Shoes: Challenge to Eradicate Racism." The object is "to be a resource to guide you on a journey for understanding, healing, and a transformation. . .it is not another program that begins and ends, but an invitation to listen, learn, reflect, and act! And in so doing, to allow the Spirit of Christ to permeate and convert your hearts so in turn all of us might become instruments of change and healing and builders of unity." The Archdiocese then gives resources for each of the four challenges of listening, learning, reflecting, and acting in order to work toward helping to eradicate racism.
In the 1979 pastoral letter, "Brothers and Sisters to Us: U.S. Bishops' Pastoral Letter on Racism in Our Day" the bishops write, "Racism is not merely one sin among many; it is a radical evil that divides the human family and denies the new creation of a redeemed world. To struggle against it demands an equally radical transformation, in our own minds and hearts as well as in the structure of our society" (Our Response). [Bold mine]
As to the systemic nature of racism, the bishops write, "Domestically, justice demands that we strive for authentic full employment, recognizing the special need for employment of those who, whether men or women, carry the principal responsibility for support of a family. Justice also demands that we strive for decent working conditions, adequate income, housing, education, and health care for all" (Society at Large).
To see the Louisville Challenges, go to: https://www.archlou.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Walking-in-My-Shoes-Challenge-to-Eradicate-Racism.pdf
We are looking to adapt the Louisville resource for use in our own parish. If you would like to help in its adaptation, contact Ken Ball, coordinator of St. Monica Ministry, at email@example.com.
Challenge yourself, help end racism, and set captives free!
Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS, Director,
Office of Human Life, Dignity, and Justice Ministries
Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Gospel reading:
"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 livelihood."
Jesus not only praises the widow, but offers a lament for her situation. In addition, his words also contain good news. The poor may be overlooked by even the religious establishment, but God has noticed their situation. God can read the widow’s heart and honors her. As far as the corrupt religious leadership who profit from her generosity, Jesus is the sign that God notices them as well and will deal with them.
So, we ask ourselves:
"Love all my friends and all the friendships that I have made. They are like the sky. It is all part of life, like a big full plate of food for the soul. I hope I left everyone a plate of food full of happy memories, happiness and no sadness."
—Last words of Quintin Jones before he was executed on May 19, 2001 at Huntsville Prison, Texas. Media witnesses were not admitted to his execution.
This is a particularly vulnerable time for state and federal prisoners. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of the inmates listed below to let them know we have not forgotten them. If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
----Central Prison, P.O. 247, Phoenix, MD 21131
For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/
On this page you can sign "The National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty." Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty: http://www.pfadp.org/
"First Impressions"is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to Fr. John Boll, OP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to Fr. Jude Siciliano, OP.
St. Albert Priory, 3150 Vince Hagan Drive, Irving, Texas 75062-4736
Make checks payable to: Dominican Friars. Or, go to our webpage to make an online donation:https://www.PreacherExchange.com/donations.htm
1. We have compiled Four CDS for sale:
If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group, or are a member of a liturgical team, these CDs will be helpful in your preparation process. Individual worshipers report they also use these reflections as they prepare for Sunday liturgy.
You can order the CDs by going to our webpage:www.PreacherExchange.com and clicking on the "First Impressions" CD link on the left.
2. "Homilías Dominicales" —These Spanish reflections on the Sunday and daily scriptures are written by Dominican sisters and friars. If you or a friend would like to receive these reflections drop a note to Fr. John Boll, OP at Jboll@opsouth.org.
3. Our webpage: www.PreacherExchange.comcom - Where you will find "Preachers’ Exchange," which includes "First Impressions" and "Homilías Dominicales," as well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies and other material pertinent to preaching.
4. "First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to Fr. John Boll, OP at the above email address.
Thank you and blessings on your preaching,
Fr. Jude Siciliano, OP
3150 Vince Hagan Drive
Irving, Texas 75062-4736
Click on a link button below to view the reflection indicated.
(The newest items are always listed first.)