Today we are given for our consideration the story of the Widow’s Mite. This text comes at the last stage of Jesus’ ministry. He has arrived in Jerusalem where he knows he is to face his death on the Cross and in the few days available to him he teaches the people in the precincts of the Temple.
During this short period Jesus covers a lot of ground. He cleanses the Temple, gives them the parable of the fig tree, defends his authority to the Chief Priests, tells the people the parable of the Tenants of the Vineyard, answers the question about taxes, argues with the Sadducees about the resurrection, gives instruction about the great commandment and then points out the poor widow and highlights her as an example of how a true follower of Jesus should act.
Then Jesus starts to talk in more apocalyptic language about the Last Days before he makes his arrangements to celebrate the Passover and the events that are to follow.
We should see this short text about the widow and her small coin in context with everything else that is going on. Jesus presents her as an example of true discipleship because she gave everything that she possessed to God. Jesus is telling his disciples that they ought to do the same, that they ought to make really serious sacrifices for the sake of the Kingdom.
According to Jesus it is not how much you pay into the Temple that counts but how much it costs you. The actual amount is irrelevant, it is whether what you give hurts you that matters. A millionaire might make a generous donation but it probably doesn’t make much difference to him. But this poor widow puts all she has into the Temple without any expectation of gaining anything because she knows that all she possesses comes ultimately from God and that it should be returned to him.
The fact that this woman is a widow is also of importance. By definition a widow has known suffering since she has experienced bereavement. She has suffered the loss of her husband, the loss of protection, the loss of status, the loss of income and in addition now experiences social stigma. In all these ways she is poorer in the eyes of this world; but of course, she is that much richer in the eyes of Jesus
Jesus has been debating with the Sadducees, they are men of position and probably also of wealth. They regard themselves as socially and religiously way above this poor widow whom they believe to be someone quite insignificant. But Jesus is making the point, as he does over and over again, that in the eyes of God it is the insignificant ones who have the greater status. Those who have power, position and wealth in this world will find that they will have the lowest places in the Kingdom of God.
Jesus constantly underlines that the values of the Kingdom of God are not the values of this world. Here on earth we are concerned about status and wealth, but God disregards these things and looks at the heart. What God is interested in his genuineness, humility and sincerity. He is not interested in externals, rather he is interested in the heart, in the motives that drive a person.
The Christian understands these things, the true Christian is concerned with the heart, with love for our neighbour and with the authentic worship of God. Nobody these days thinks much about those Sadducees, they are a forgotten footnote of history. But we all know about that nameless widow with her small coin. We see her as a model of true discipleship and as a faithful servant of God.
Today is Remembrance Sunday and immediately after this mass we cross the road and go to the Fire Station opposite the Church for our Act of Remembrance. You will be aware that on the 16th November 1940 the Fire Station had a direct hit from a bomb and six Fire Brigade personnel were killed. The blast from the bomb damaged our Church Organ and blew out most of our stained glass. So, it is certainly very appropriate that we join with the Fire Brigade for this simple ceremony of remembrance.
Today is the one hundredth anniversary of the cessation of the First World War which ended in 1918 at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. We abhor all war, but yet we feel it is important to remember those who gave their lives in the cause of freedom. There was a time in the nineteen seventies and eighties when Remembrance Day ceremonies were going out of fashion and fewer and fewer people attended them. But, actually, these days, although there are far less people who remember the war, acts of remembrance are much better attended. This is surely a good thing.
We remember not only those who gave their lives and made sacrifices in the First and Second World Wars but we include all those who made the ultimate sacrifice in wars in more recent years. Our purpose is not to glorify war but to acknowledge the sacrifices of so many people who gave their lives so that we might live in freedom.
May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.
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Father Alex McAllister SDS
Parish Priest of
St Thomas à Becket