- 1 Kings 17:10-16 The widow made a little scone from her flour meal and brought it to Elijah.
- Mark 12:38-44 This poor widow has put more in than all who contributed.
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So we are in November and this is the 32nd Sunday in the year, so we’re definitely getting towards the pointy end of the year: as exams come around, and as the Christmas decorations are all up in the shops. This sense of anticipation of this movement that begins to grow towards the end of the year: both liturgically and within our civil society as well. So as we get to the pointy end of the year, we also get to the pointy end of the Gospel of Mark.
We’ve been rapidly moving through these last couple of weeks, getting with Jesus towards Jerusalem. Then he made his triumphant entry into Jerusalem – which we didn’t read because we hear that on Palm Sunday. But last week and this week and next week will be these readings that happen during Holy Week – this final week in the life and ministry of Jesus and Mark is very careful. He hasn’t been so fussed about telling us when things were happening, but in this final week, Mark is the clearest one that’s actually given us these time markers to tell us when these different things are happening. All of these events that we hear today happen on the Tuesday (of Holy Week).
The next time Mark will be two days before the feast of Passover and the day before the Passover, and then everything begins to then unfold. Now, lots of things undoubtedly happened during those final days in Jerusalem. Action packed all of that sense of anticipation. Of confrontation that Jesus cleanses the temple. All of the scribes and the Pharisees. The tension will be ramped up to a max. So Mark isn’t telling us everything that’s happened. He’s just telling us the key, important moments in these days wanting us to understand why these particular events are significant.
And so he’s given us these two particular details, the warning that Jesus gives about those who stand to the front of the assembly in long robes: hello! Who say long prayers: hello? Who like to be greeted obsequiously in the front of the church. Yes, I’m feeling a little bit exposed at the moment, so Jesus is attacking those people who sit at the front of the church. It seems so those people at the back well done, you’re doing very well – to not make your show by sitting at the very front of the church and giving them. And for those who are at the front: thank you for giving me some company.
Today to at least take away some of that stress and pressure, but he’s wanting to make these contrasts, as he’s often done across the pages of this gospel of Mark, reminding us of what is important so many times.
Jesus has brought the disciples in close he’s wanted them to be instructed. This is the fifth or sixth time that he’s given these direct relaying of events as he gathers them in; as he warns the disciples to understand what is significant. What is this central moment in all of this as they watch so many people put their money into the treasury on that day and it was kind of this trumpet sort of thing and you could hear the coins as they rattled around as they made their way down into the treasury.
And then this widow who comes with just these two small coins, two lepta in the Greek – worth less than a penny. You know, nothing in comparison to the vast sums of money that the rich are putting in. And yet Jesus has his insight. He knows how destitute most widows would have been. There’s no social support system. There’s there’s nothing if she doesn’t have any children, and there’s no indication of that. She is absolutely destitute, just relying upon the assistance of others that the arms that others might give to her to provide for her. And she’s there and she gives all that she has to the Treasury.
Perhaps she knows well these two small coins are not even really going to buy her anything significant anyway, so you might as well give them over to God. I mean, there may be an undercurrent here of how unjust is this temple system, of even exploiting this woman to encourage her to give the very last coins away. You know that although. She had to live on so there that would certainly be there, but Jesus seems simply to praise her and to offer you a point of contrast.
Four weeks ago we heard another story about the this time a rich young man who had lots of possessions who had more than enough and Jesus invited him to follow. “Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Keep the commandments and the man said yes, I’ve done all these things and then looking steadily at the man in love. He invites him. If you want to be perfect, go so all you have and give the money to the poor and come follow me. But the man wasn’t able to do that. So this woman stands in contrast to him.
This woman is able to give away all that she has. She has so little, perhaps that makes a vast difference to that. I remember when I joined the Carmelites and I had to give away all of my money and come in empty handed. It was certainly much easier because I’d come from being a student, so I had very little to kind of give away. If the Lord asked me to do the same thing again today, I think I would be balking a bit more because I’ve gained possessions over the last 20 years.
So that sense of where we have nothing. It is a little bit easier to give away, but this invitation is, well, what do you have? It’s not about saying what you don’t have, it’s not about what the woman wasn’t able to give. She couldn’t give the vast treasures that others were giving because she didn’t have that and so often we judge ourselves according to what we don’t have to the skills or the talents of the treasures or all those regrets that we might carry through life and think, well, if only I’d made that decision earlier in life. If only that thing hadn’t unfolded. But no.
What we’re invited today to realize is that God takes us and meets us exactly where we are. It has to be in this place of trust. Just as the widow of sign on, she didn’t really know what Elijah would have to offer, but that sense of hospitality that she offers to him when he. And his boldness, and we can certainly see a certain male arrogance in that. You know, please can you go get me a little water to drink?
Oh, and by the way, can you also make me a little scorn of bread to give to me to eat? And she says look, I have nothing. All I have is just this little bit of flour, little bit of oil. I’m going to prepare the final meal before I starve to death, before everything that I have is expended. Everything I have is taken away from me. And in that moment, Elijah invites her to trust just as God so often invites us to trust.
And sometimes it seems too much to too extreme to be able to dare risk that trust to risk. Giving myself giving away that last little thing.
And yet, it’s in that moment it’s in that realization when we don’t have anything that is great or amazing or incredible to offer of ourselves that in that moment if we’re able to say to God, look, I don’t have much but all that I have is yours.
- All of my gifts, all my talents, all of my regrets, all of my mistakes.
- All of my failures, all of the things that seem to characterize and have shaped me, Lord, I bring them.
- I offer them to you in that moment.
- If we’re able to surrender in that moment. If we’re able to give of our selves.
Then indeed, a transformation begins to happen with the one thing that all of us have is the ability to love even as flawed, and this incomplete as it may feel at times no one can ever take away that ability to love.
So in this moment on this day were invited to at least surrender that love back to God to give of ourselves to give of our love.
As small as it might seem to offer that in great love to God and God will take that, and God will bless that, and there will be that abundance, and there will be that faithfulness, because we know that God is always faithful, and when even when we are not, God will always come through in the end.
So indeed, as we gather to worship our God, let’s be grateful that we can bring ourselves and we can make these small offerings of ourselves back to the Lord.