Having Nothing, We Gain Everything

Mark 12: 38-44
Tb 12:1.5-15.20 / Tb 13:2.6

She, out of her poverty, put in everything — all she had to live on.
(Mark 12:44 )

With nothing of my own from birth,
With nothing but hope I aspire
To claim when I depart this earth,
Your kingdom as my sole desire.

As he taught, Jesus said, ‘Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the market-places, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.’ Then Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything— all she had to live on.’ (Mark 12:38-44)

Reflection

In the course of His teaching, Jesus brought His disciples’ attention to two contrasting figures: the proud, status-seeking teachers of the law, and the lowly, humble widow. One craved for the admiration of people, and the other walked in the shadows, shunning public attention. The former sought the honor of men, the latter the attention of God. And we can clearly see that while the self-important scribes were condemned to “be punished most severely”, that nameless widow earned the praise and admiration of God Himself.

It is not the amount that we give that makes our gift significant; it is how much that is left for ourselves that makes the difference. Jesus praised the poor widow, even though her gift was hardly of any value compared to the vast amounts donated by others to the temple treasury, because even if she knew she would have nothing left, she believed and trusted that God would take care of her needs. Like most widows in Palestine at that time, she had no one to depend on for survival, and her act was a total surrender to God’s mercy. And sure enough, she caught God’s attention.

God is not attracted to wealthy people in flowing robes, chanting long prayers, and making large donations to the church coffers. It is because in their self-sufficiency, they never feel any real sense of urgency for God. More likely, their going to church is all for show, if not for tradition’s expediency. This is probably the reason why our Lord Jesus, in His life and in His parables, always had a soft spot for the poor widows, because they usually had no money or status in life, and were totally dependent on God and others for their very survival.

And this is what our Lord’s message is in today’s Gospel. When we express our total dependence on God’s mercy, He will not only supply us our needs, but He will bless us even more abundantly in other good things as well. This was what happened to Tobit and his son Tobiah (Tob.12:5-15). They put their total trust and dependence on the angel Raphael, and at the end of their journey, they were willing to give to him (not knowing his true identity) half of all the wealth that Tobiah had successfully brought home. Instead, Raphael revealed himself as God’s messenger and told them to “keep thanking God everyday; praise Him with song.”

Let us never forget, Lord, that everything is Yours, and we are merely Your stewards. May we always depend on You, never holding back anything that You require us to give, emptying ourselves if need be, in order to receive Your bounty. Amen.

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