32ndSunday in Ordinary Time
- · Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
- · Joke of the Day
- · Today’s Gospel Reading
- · Gospel Reflection
- · Reflection Prayer
Now that the elections are over, it is our duty as Catholic Christians to help bring all people – – all our brothers and sisters in Christ together in peace and HARMONY. Let us all pray for our country’s leaders, for our country itself, and for each of US.
A friend gave me the following intentions for prayer during the election period; however, I tweaked it to be used as a way of praying daily. Please let me know what you think about the following set of various bible verses:
SCRIPTURE VERSES TO PRAY FOR OUR NATION
Today’s reflection: Jesus notices a poor widow’s offering and commends her great sacrifice. What’s your commitment to “tithing”?
(NAB Mark 12:38-44) 38 In the course of his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, 39 seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.” 41 He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. 44 For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”
The context for today’s Gospel continues to be one of mounting tensions between Jesus and the Jewish authorities. In today’s reading, Mark tells of Jesus’ teaching specifically in the Temple area where He could observe His Jewish brethren putting in their offering to the Temple treasury.
In the first part, we hear Jesus warn the crowds to not follow the example of the Scribes in seeking honor and coveting attention from others by their actions and religious behavior. It is important for us to recall that Jesus taught these things while in the vicinity of the Temple in Jerusalem, the Scribes “home court” territory. Mark, in this first part of his Gospel today, is setting the stage for Jesus’ arrest, passion, and crucifixion. While the tradition of a deep hostility between the Pharisees and Jesus is well founded, this reading reflects a growing animosity which goes beyond that of Jesus’ personal ministry to that of the bitter conflict between Jesus, His followers, and the Temple leaders, in their religious practices.
Jesus’ first teaching is about the Scribes (and, I am sure, the Pharisees and Sadducees as well), and their very public and overt attention which they purposely bring onto themselves. The Scribes’ narrow, legalistic, and external practices of piety in matters of public worship, and observance of the commandments, with their own interpretations, places them in opposition to Jesus’ teaching of the TRUE moral intent of God the Father’s divine law.
Per Jesus and divine law, the following practices and tradition of the Temple leaders are dubious, questionable, and untrustworthy:
- going around in long robes
- accept greetings in the marketplaces,
- having seats of honor in synagogues, and
- holding places of honor at banquets”.
So, Jesus Christ censures and denounces the Scribes for their lack of humility. In their misguided zeal, the Scribes desired and sought respect and honor for themselves rather than for God and for His “Word”. They wanted the people to treat them as great teachers and religious “rulers”. They unfortunately made the practice of their faith one of a place of honor rather than “humbly serving” the “chosen people” of God.
Lack of humility and piety is as dangerous as greed itself. Lack of these virtues (humility and piety) actually leads one to increased greed and further separation from God the Father. Mark actually warns of the consequences of greed and arrogance in today’s reading:
“In the course of his teaching he [Jesus] said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation’” (Mark 12:38-40).
The Scribes are “acting” in order to impress others and earn praise. Their actions were solely for the purpose of making their “piety” more noticeable. The hypocrisy of the Scribes (and the Pharisees and Sadducees) is in their “long prayers” and public actions – – in their purposeful, very public demonstrations of “piety” – – having no other purpose than to enhance their ego’s and reputations as the paramount and BEST religious persons in the area (and beyond).
The Scribes “place of honor and worship” was the Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple was the center of Jewish worship from the time Solomon built it in 957 BC – – and rebuilt after its first TOTAL destruction by the Babylonians in 586 BC – – until shortly after the time of Jesus when it was destroyed completely by the Romans in 70 A.D. and never rebuilt. Jesus observed how Jewish “pilgrims” were making their required contributions to the Temple treasury. It was expected that observant Jews would make pilgrimages to the Temple to offer prayer and sacrifices. These visiting pilgrims also were expected to make a financial contribution to the Temple treasury. (See, Catholics aren’t the only ones who are expected to contribute financially to their “parish”!)
As we would expect, Jesus observed that those who were rich contributed large sums to the treasury, while those with less funds made smaller contributions. A similar situation exists in most of our parishes as well today, especially in our financially depressing times which we are currently experiencing now.
Jesus, in His second teaching from today’s reading, calls attention to a “poor widow” who makes the smallest of contributions – – a paltry sum of money, just two coins of very little value. Jesus give His approval to the poor widow’s offering, commending her because her small offering was an act of profound love and generosity. She was giving from “her livelihood” rather than from her surplus. WOW!! Do you trust God enough to do such an act? I admit, I have difficulties in doing this quite often. (This is something to truly work on for me.)
Jesus says of her that she is “blessed”, not only for her actions, but especially for her attitude, intentions, and because she gave “from her poverty”. This “poor widow” had “contributed all she had, her whole livelihood”. This “widow” is an example of the poor ones – – such as St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta and St. Francis of Assisi – – who detached from material possessions, showed her dependence on God; which led to her (and their) blessedness (and the wonder & admiration from Jesus Himself):
“Calling His disciples to Himself, he said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury’” (Mark 12:43).
Her simple offering provided a striking contrast to the pride and pretentiousness of the Scribes who were “censured” by Jesus in the preceding verses (Mark 12:38-40).
Jesus is extolling the fortunate condition of this poor woman who is, at the same time, favored with the blessings of God the Father because of her true, deep faith. She was a REAL disciple of Christ who appreciated the real values of God’s kingdom. The present condition of this “poor widow” will ultimately be reversed in God’s kingdom. She will inherit the riches of eternal life – – in the everlasting presence of God – – at the bountiful and eternal banquet in heaven.
- the desire for prominence rather than selfless service;
- the desire for admiration and recognition (seeking esteem from others) rather than seeking to promote the good of others through humble service and love;
- attempting to use one’s position (even a religious position) for self-gain and self-advancement.
True faith means relating to God – – and to one’s “neighbor” – – with love, honor, and reverence. God places the Holy Spirit within each of us, filling us with the joy of His presence, the joy of true worship, and the joy of selfless giving and love for, and to, others. This true love, honor, and reverence for God frees our heart to give freely, generously, and abundantly both to God AND to neighbor.
To give from our livelihood is not only an act of love and generosity, it is also an act of trust in God’s mercy, love, and providence. We can only give from our need if we trust in God providing for us. Jesus Himself demonstrated the ultimate act of loving generosity and trust in God when He gave His life – – for US – – on the Holy Cross.
Jesus, through His Passion and death, taught His disciples a dramatic lesson in giving with love. Love doesn’t calculate; it spends lavishly instead! (And boy, does my wife “LOVE” spending!!) Jesus drove this point of “love giving more than it takes in” home to His disciples while sitting in the Temple, observing and commenting on the people offering their contributions to the Temple treasury.
Jesus’ teaching seems to be very simple: this “poor widow” trusted with all she had, believing God would provide for her. Jesus reveals to her that love for God is more precious than any amount of money! Jesus taught that real giving must come from the heart. A “gift” which is given – – for show or with conditions – – loses most of its value. However, Jesus reveals that He is impressed by a gift given out of love, with a spirit of generosity and sacrifice, is truly invaluable – – priceless – – in God’s eye and His kingdom.
The amount or size of the gift doesn’t matter as much as the cost to the giver. The “poor widow” could have kept one of her coins, but instead she gave away ALL SHE HAD!! Jesus praised this person who gave the Temple barely anything of monetary value, solely because it was everything she had in life, “her whole living”.
What we have in life to offer to God and neighbor may look very small and not worth much in our eyes, and even in others’ eyes; but if we put ALL we have towards God’s will and plan, no matter how insignificant it may seem to you and others, God will certainly do with it – – and with us – – what is beyond our feeble consideration and understanding.
Today’s Gospel leads us to think about our family’s financial contributions to our personal parish communities, the diocese we live in, other Church-sponsored organizations, and even other charitable groups. Good stewardship (the way in which someone organizes and takes care of something) invites us to share our time, talents, and treasures.
Sometimes, our decisions about charitable giving are made without the knowledge of others in our family. However, we need to remember that we can teach a valuable lesson when we make family members aware of HOW we are contributing to our Church and to other charitable organizations. We can pass on our knowledge of God’s gifts for others imparted to us in, with, and through the Holy Spirit.
Think about your family’s financial contributions to your parish and to other Church functions and activities, as well as other charitable organizations. Think about why it is important for you to share your resources with these organizations. Finally, reflect on what Jesus observed in the generosity of the “poor widow”. In what ways might you make a sacrificial gift to support your parish or other charitable organization through a donation of time, talents, or treasures (it does NOT have to be money!). Then, participate in the action you choose to take for the organization you chose to support. Finish your reflection on the generosity of the “poor widow” with a prayer, asking for God’s help to be “generous” like the generous “poor widow” in today’s Gospel. Thank you.
“Generous God, I give thanks to you for the gifts you have given me: my life, my family, my friends; my time, talents, and material possessions. All that I have comes from you. Help me to remember this and rejoice in your goodness.
Walk with me, my God. Help me on my spiritual journey, so that I may constantly renew my relationship with you and all the good people in our parish and throughout the world.
Renew in me your Spirit. Give me the strength and courage to become a better follower of Jesus, to be a disciple. Help me hear the call to “Come, Follow Me.”
I give glory to you, my God, as I make stewardship a way of life. Amen.”