1) Opening prayer
your love never fails.
Hear our call.
Keep us from danger
and provide for all our needs.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Mark 12,38-44
In his teaching Jesus said, 'Beware of the scribes who like to walk about in long robes, to be greeted respectfully in the market squares, to take the front seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets; these are the men who devour the property of widows and for show offer long prayers. The more severe will be the sentence they receive.'
He sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the treasury, and many of the rich put in a great deal. A poor widow came and put in two small coins, the equivalent of a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, 'In truth I tell you, this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury; for they have all put in money they could spare, but she in her poverty has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.'
• In today’s Gospel we are getting to the end of the long teaching of Jesus to his disciples. From the first cure of the blind man (Mk 8,22-26) up to the cure of the blind Bartimaeus in Jericho (10,46-52), the disciples walked with Jesus toward Jerusalem, receiving much instruction from him about the passion, death and resurrection and the consequences for the life of the disciple. When they reached Jerusalem, they assist to the debates of Jesus with the traders in the Temple (Mk 11, 15-19), with the high priests and the Scribes (Mk 11, 27 a 12, 12), with the Pharisees, Herodians and the Sadducees (Mk 12, 13-27), with the Doctors of the Law (Mk 12, 28-37). Now, in today’s Gospel, after the last criticism against the Scribes (Mk 12, 38-40), Jesus instructs the disciples. Jesus sitting opposite the treasury he called their attention on the gesture of sharing of a poor widow. In that gesture they should look for the manifestation of the will of God (Mk 12, 41-44).
• Mark 12, 38-40: The criticism of the doctors of the Law. Jesus calls the attention of the disciples on the arrogant and hypocritical behaviour of some of the doctors of the Law. They liked very much to go around the squares in the city wearing long tunics, and to receive the greeting of the people, to occupy the first places in the Synagogue and to have the place of honour in the banquets. They liked to enter into the houses of the widows and to say long prayers in exchange for money! And Jesus says: “These people will receive a great condemnation!”
• Mark 12,41-42. The mite of the widow. Jesus and his disciples sitting opposite the treasury of the Temple observed that all left their alms. The poor put in a very small amount, a few cents, the rich put in coins of great value. The Treasury of the Temple received much money. Everyone took something for the maintenance of the cult, to support the clergy and for the maintenance of the building. Part of this money was used to help the poor, because at that time there was no social security. The poor depended on public charity. And the poor who needed greater help, were the orphans and the widows. They had nothing. They depended for everything on the help of others. But even without having anything, they tried to share. In this way, a very poor widow, put in her alms into the treasury of the Temple. Just a few cents!
• Mark 12, 43-44. Jesus indicates where God’s will is manifested. What has greater value: the ten cents of the widow or the one thousand dollars of the rich? For the disciples, the one thousand dollars of the rich were much more useful than the ten cents of the widow. They thought that the problems of the people could be solved only with much money. On the occasion of the multiplication of the loaves, they had said to Jesus: “Are we to go and spend two hundred denarii on bread for them to eat?” (Mk 6, 37) In fact, for those who think this way, the ten cents of the widow do not serve for anything. But Jesus says: “This widow who is poor has put into the treasury more than all the others”. Jesus has different criteria. He calls the attention of his disciples on the gesture of the widow, and teaches them where they and we should seek the manifestation of God’s will: in the poor and in sharing. Many poor people today do the same thing. People say: ”The poor do not let another poor person starve”. But sometimes, not even this is possible. Cicera, the lady of the interior zone of Paraiba, Brazil, who went to live in the periphery of the capital city, would say: “In the interior, people were poor, but there was always a piece of bread to share with the poor person who knocked at the door. Now that I am in the great city, when I see a poor person who knocks at the door, I hide out of shame, because at home I have nothing to share with him!” On the one hand, rich people who have everything, but who do not want to share. On the other side: poor people who hardly have anything, but who want to share the little that they have.
• Alms, sharing, riches. The practice of giving alms was very important for the Jews. It was considered a “good work”, because the Law of the Old Testament said: “Because the poor will never be missing in the country; this is why I give you this command, and I say to you: Always be open handed with your brother in your country who is in need and poor” (Dt 15,11). The alms, deposited in the treasury of the Temple, whether for the worship, or for the needy, for the orphans and for the widows, were considered an action pleasing to God. To give alms was a way of recognizing that all the goods belong to God and that we are simple administrators of these goods, in such a way that there will be abundant life for all. The practice of sharing and of solidarity is one of the characteristics of the first Christian communities: “None of their members was ever in want, as all those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money from the sale of them to present it to the apostles; (Ac 4, 34-35; 2, 44-45). The money from the sale, offered to the apostles, was not accumulated, but rather “it was then distributed to any who might be in need” (Ac 4,35b; 2, 45). The entrance into the community of persons who were richer introduced into the community the mentality of accumulation and blocked the movement of solidarity and of sharing. James warns these persons: “Now you rich! Lament; weep for the miseries that are coming to you. Your wealth is rotting; your clothes are all moth-eaten” (Jm 5, 1-3). To learn the way to the Kingdom, we all need to become pupils of that poor widow, who shared all she had, what was necessary to live (Mk 12,41-44).
4) Personal questions
• How is it that the two cents of the widow can be worth more than one thousand dollars of the rich? Look well at the text and see why Jesus praises the poor widow. What message does this text contain for us today?
• What difficulties and what joys have you found in your life in the practice of solidarity and in sharing with others?
5) Concluding Prayer
My mouth is full of your praises,
filled with your splendour all day long.
Do not reject me in my old age,
nor desert me when my strength is failing. (Ps 71,8-9)