We listen to Mark 12-38-44 this Sunday telling the crowds to be aware of the scribes who go around in long robes and enjoy seats of honor. What they give to the treasury is more about their status than a true offering to God. A poor widow gives a couple of small coins, an offering that evokes a message of genuine giving—her few cents come from her survival and her need, from her genuine poverty. She gives to God all that she possesses from her earthly survival.
There are many ways to interpret the poor widow. She is often used for fundraising, for inviting people to give from their need. We hear this gospel in November, at the conclusion of the liturgical year, and I think this changes the message. We reflect on end times in the liturgy today, on the ways we are to see God as our only priority here on earth.
The anonymous widow offered her entire soul to God. She gave to the offering most of her earthly attachments. She gave more than money; she offered God her lowly status, her cultural powerlessness in a time when widows could not own land or have a job. As a widow she had no status and no authority or voice among the village. Her life was tough. My drawing reveals her struggle. Her face is complex; her expression is sheer bewilderment, exhaustion, and uncertainty about her future. She is exhausted by her life on the earth and turns to offer God all that remains and all that has been stripped from her.
The liturgy in this month challenges us to let go of all that keeps us from offering our real lives to God. We hide behind our judgments about people. We cling to our attitudes that put more people down than we elevate by our good will. This gospel challenges us to let go of our pride, our illusions of control, and our excuses not to pay attention to God. The woman’s offering illustrates how to let go of what holds us back, what clings to our souls, what stains our relationships. We give to God all that we have, all that is valuable to us and all that means something to other people.
God wants everything in our lives if we are to fully follow Jesus. We leave nothing behind. Everything must ultimately be offered to God. Jesus transforms our poverty, our weariness, our small efforts, our ill health, our worries about our children, and our weak hope for the future. We let go of every little thing we posses in order to discover God’s grace for us. Like small coins in the coffer, we drop our pride, our sin, our stubbornness, and our anger so that God may reveal his riches within us.
Here are some statements to consider from this week’s gospel:
How is the Holy Spirit challenging you to give more of yourself to the Father?
What are the small tokens you offer to God—such as your regrets, your history, your lack of attention?
What in your life, what secret do you keep, from God, that you hoard for yourself?
How can you offer to God your time and relationships?
How can you offer your talents and gifts for the common good?
What does the widow represent for you?
How would you describe her in the story?
How is the widow a challenge for you?
How is she a consolation?
How does she speak to you personally about how you are to pray?