Mark 12:38-44 invites us to examine our pretentious behavior. So often we use religion as a way of thwarting power over people. We make the regulations of the Church difficult so we can justify our own place in authority. The Church, however, is meant for so much more. It is an instrument to allow us to know our need for God, to explore our deepest humanity, to witness to God’s eternal presence right here among us.
The image that Mark’s gospel uses is that of the treasury. We understand money is power. So, he uses this image of power to reveal the real power of God’s presence in our lives. He uses the powerless widow as a juxtaposition to human power of pride and self-sufficiency. Her life of powerlessness is key to our unity with God. Her life as a widow becomes richness in this text. As a widow, she cannot own land. She is without all of society’s benefits of marriage that would stabilize her life for her financial future.
The widow drops coins in the treasury. Her two coins teach us many things here. She realized her value comes from God. Two coins was a lot of money for her, in fact, it was all she had. Money was valuable to her, yet she knew of the value of her life in God. She gave from her need. The value of her giving was worth more than the value of what wealthy people offered.
We are to give more than money back to God. We are to give back all that God has given us. We are to acknowledge every gift, every talent, and every desire of our souls. We give back to God because God gives us life. God also gives us the promise of life for all eternity. Such a wonderous gift.
The gospel cautions us not to go around with pretentious actions, clothing, and places of honor. We cannot live in God and claim our earthly pride. Our lives of faith are meant to reveal a deep humility in all that we possess, in our hearts and in our actions. It is easier to know the rules and regulations of the Church than to be the humble witnesses that God desires of us, allowing us to be servants of the mystery we celebrate.
Faith is not meant to make us look good. It is not a place where we lift our pride and pretentious actions to show others we belong. Instead, we give to God from our deepest humility, from our incredible need for God’s redeeming love and mercy. There needs to be a place for God to work within us. This place is the treasury of our hearts that always knows God’s value and love. Our hearts become a vessel for our conversion, to know a deep and lasting place for God to work within us.
Our treasure lies within us. This is the place of encounter, of mystery. We belong in the treasury of God’s willingness to be among the broken, the fragile and the marginalized. What a treasure indeed.
“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.”
God give you peace,
Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor