A POOR WIDOW PUT IN TWO SMALL COINS

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Reflection 32nd  Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B    11th November 2018

In the passage of the Gospel of St. Mark that we are going to hear this coming Sunday, we find Jesus in the temple of Jerusalem, at the end of his journey, during which he spent a great amount of time instructing his disciples.

This instruction was for them a Catechumenate in the street. Two different kinds of people are presented by Jesus as models for his followers: the first kind are some members of the scribes and Pharisees groups, a negative model whose example must be rejected, “Be aware of the Scribes and Pharisees”! The second kind the example is  a poor widow, who, in her modesty and simplicity becomes a model worthy to be imitated. The accusation that Jesus throws at the scribes and Pharisees is about their “vanity”. They are people who love to show off their knowledge and their titles and to draw attention from everybody. In order to appear special, not just ordinary people, they do not dress like everybody else, “they enjoy walking around in long robes”. It is out of respect for their appearance that people give them reverence, make way for them in the streets, reserve for them the front seats in the public places and in the synagogues, serve them promptly at the market. They demand respect and reverence; to be greeted with and a simple “ hello” is not enough for them. They want reverence and hand-kissing: they really feel superior to everybody else: they enjoy this status. To “appear important” is their greatest desire. Jesus calls them hypocrites, actors: Everything they do is done to impress people and to attract their attention. As the proverb says: “appearances can be deceptive”: for this reason Jesus invites the disciples not to stop at appearances or remain under the influence of public opinion or social prejudices, but to reflect on the word of God that penetrates the heart. This is what happens in the second part of the Gospel passage, where Jesus sits opposite the treasury and invites the apostles to observe with him a widow who is putting two coins in the offering box. This simple episode becomes a lesson of life that can be missed by distracted eyes. Jesus helps the disciples to look at this scene not with a superficial attitude, that surely would promptly laugh at the meager offering of this woman, but to look beyond appearances and recognize in that gesture a great act of generosity: the poor widow has given everything she had to live on. We can draw two messages from this gospel passage. First: the goodness of our actions does not depend on the approval they may receive by onlookers, but on the obedience to the word of God. Second: if we do not want to be misled by social narrow-mindedness, we need to see and judge the events and persons present in our daily life, with the eyes and wisdom of the Word of God, as Jesus' disciples did many years ago in the temple, while they sat with Jesus opposite the Treasury.