While all the people were listening he said to the disciples, ‘Beware of the scribes who like to walk about in long robes and love to be greeted in the market squares, to take the front seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets, who swallow the property of widows, while making a show of lengthy prayers. The more severe will be the sentence they receive.
And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than you all; you have given of your abundance your offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in everything she had.” (Luke 21:1-4)
A Vietnamese seminarian shared the following story with me when I asked him what he remembered most about his childhood. He was from a poor family and one memory was there being literally no food and nothing even to prepare the simplest of meals. Suddenly a basket of food arrived and his mother’s first words were: who shall we share this with?
This gospel passage is primarily a criticism of a faith community’s attitude. Jesus certainly praises the widow’s donation but he does not command us to do what she does, otherwise he would have said “Go and do likewise”. She has given ‘out of her poverty’ and her donation speaks of her detachment and understanding that all belongs to God. Her contribution is small but total. Her heart is in a different place when compared with the others. The scribes have let personal recognition and social honour creep into their religion. Their focus had gone to the wrong place and the scripture continues:
When some were talking about the Temple, remarking how it was adorned with fine stonework and votive offerings, he said, ‘All these things you are staring at now – the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another: everything will be destroyed.’
From a V de P perspective what can we learn from comparing the scribes and Pharisees with the Widow? How does it apply to the Church today?
God of compassion,
Grant me the grace of focus.
Make me conscious of what rules my heart
To know why I choose to serve.
Inspire me to be generous.