Learning to give from the heart – Saturday, 9th Week in ordinary time – Mark 12: 38-44
We are at the end of the Gospel of Mark. The following texts focus on Our Lord’s passion death and resurrection. From Monday we will begin with the ministry of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew; chapter five onwards. For now, we bring our teaching on the Gospel of Mark to a close even though the chapter itself will continue to see Jesus teaching in the temple.
They say that there is a threshold for everything and the patience of Our Lord seems to have been breached. Not only has he had to deal with the shenanigans of the Jewish religious establishment but he also had to deal with their political allies, the Herodians. Scripture tells us that having dealt with them all, “no one dare to ask him any question.” (12:34) While that may be true, it did not imply that they did not have questions about him as we see in verse 35-37.
So much of Jesus’ ministry was under a constant scanner because he posed a threat to the Jewish religious leadership who saw him as enemy number one. When truth stands in the path of false hood and deceit, every effort is made to eradicate the truth, lest those who see the truth begin to question the world they have been made to accept and live in. We know that truth has a name; it is Jesus. He declared, “I am the way, the life and the truth.” Yet THE truth had to be eradicated even if it meant that a brother Jew was sold out to the Romans and nailed to a cross.
Yet, Our Lord had no malice towards his detractors. From the cross he asked his father to forgive them, yet on earth he does what he ought to do, warn his disciples less they fall prey to the false hood of the Jewish religious leaders. We hear that warning in today’s text; “beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes and be greeted in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets. “
Ironically, the Jews thought that they were watching Jesus; waiting for him to make a mistake. In reality, he was watching them and that too very intently. He observes their behaviour and their clamour for importance and power. But even more, he observes the immorality of their actions when they spare none; not even the widows who were protected by the law of Moses. The keepers of the law had become its violators for they swallow up the homes of widows.
It is in this context that Our Lord notices a widow who was poor and she puts in two small copper coins worth a penny. The ancient Greek word lepton literally means “a tiny thing,” and so in the Old English was translated as mite, which comes from the word for a “crumb” or “very small morsel.”
Interestingly, Jesus did not say that she put in more than any one of them; He said that she put in more than all of them; all of them put together. ‘They’ put out of their abundance but she put all she had to live on. What the widow gave might seem insignificant to many from the viewpoint of quantity. However, she is praised for her total generosity in giving all she had, not just what was over and above.
Jesus looks at us too when we give and He notices how we give. As Jesus looks, He is more interested in how we give than in how much we give. In seeing how the people gave, Jesus wasn’t studying technique. He looks more at motive and heart.
The story of the poor widow is very suitable for contemplation. We can approach this narrative as a viewer, like the disciples did as they watched the scene unfold. Or we can picture ourselves in the place of the widow.