The Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
11 November 2018 at St. Peter the Apostle & St. William Churches in Naples, Fl
1 Kings 17, 10-16 + Psalm 146 + Hebrews 9, 24-28 + Mark 12, 38-44
Today, Mark says that Jesus draws his disciples to himself. Something really important is about to be shared. Something is about to revealed that they must not miss. What we get here is another example of what I like to call, “divine logic” which turns human logic upside down. The apostles had been raised and believed that people who had a lot of things and a lot of money were the blessed and favored by God. Those who were poor and lived on the margins of society had somehow sinned and brought this all on themselves. Once again, Jesus turns this thinking upside down. In their eyes, the woman’s contribution was just about worthless compared to what others had given. Jesus reveals that God measures the gifts given on a bases totally different from human calculations. God looks at the motives of the heart. The others had contributed from their surplus. They gave to God what was left over after they had taken care of themselves, but this woman gave from her poverty. She gave from her substance not from her surplus.
Her gift meant that now she would have to rely on God. There is a kind of reckless generosity here that reveals something about God which in the end is the whole purpose of the story. She is an example of the kind of giving that is God-like for God gave his only Son for our sake holding back nothing for himself. These words of praise for this widow are the very last words that Jesus ever speaks in the Temple. It is his final revelation of the Father’s love for us. What he would have us see is that God is like this poor widow who does not give left-overs, extra change, or hold back anything for himself. It is all or nothing for God. The focus of Jesus here is not the Scribes of whom we should beware, but the focus is on this widow. Jesus equates her gift to the house of God with the gift of God himself.
Something about us always leads us to be impressed by what is big or what is expensive at the cost of overlooking or ignoring what is small. G.K. Chesterton once remarked that if size is the criterion then a whale should be the image of God. He was often upset by natural scientists whose excitement about the scale of the universe reduced humanity to insignificance. He said it was a vulgar notion like trying to infer the value of someone’s personality from the size of their bank balance.
If it is the size of things that matters then the death of a young man 2000 years ago outside of Jerusalem was to all but a few contemporaries, an insignificant event, the last moments of a crucified criminal dying unnoticed by secular historians in an obscure corner of the empire. You would think it might have been reported with a two-line notice on page four of the local paper. After all, it’s only a little thing compared with the media coverage of celebrity lives these days. However, that little thing, that single death outside of town was filled with a power to which no limits can be set in heaven or on earth. It ought to affirm for us once and for all the truth that little things matter in a big way, and that giving from our substance rather from our surplus is the kind of sacrifice that matters.