Jesus Does Not Want a Little, He Wants All

Reading 1 1 Kgs 17:10-16

Responsorial Psalm Ps 146:7, 8-9, 9-10

Reading 2 Heb 9:24-28

Gospel Mk 12:38-44

In today’s readings we are confronted with two pious Jewish widows. Both terribly poor, yet each gives all she has to godly cause. One gives from her last handful of meal and her last drops of oil to a prophet; the other puts her precious two copper coins in the temple collection box. One profits from a miracle; the other is praised by the Lord.

“Many rich people put in large sums.” The “poor widow … put in two copper coins.” She put in the smallest Greek coins in circulation. You need 128 such coins to make up the daily wage of a laborer. Still Jesus can tell his disciples: “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all” the rest. Why? Because they were tossing into the treasury “out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living.”

Remember, Jesus is not castigating the wealthy parishioners; he is not even accusing them of outward show. He is praising the widow. And his praise tells us something rich about human living, about the risk in giving. The widow’s gift was greater than all because in giving the coins she gave up her security; she “put in her whole living.” The others gave, and it was good; but they leave the temple without anxiety, without worry. They had given a good deal, but there was more where that came from. For the widow, nothing left but to cast all her cares to the Lord.

Likewise, for the widow in 1 Kings. A handful of flour and a spot of oil – enough to bake a cake for herself and her son before they lie down to die. And a stranger says: “First make me a little cake …!” Not that she was giving up her security; she had none, even if Elijah had not dropped in on her. But to give the last cake of your life to a stranger because he says, “Don’t be afraid”? What would you have answered? Jesus enters into Mark’s story of the widow not as a commentator or judge. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem to meet his passion and death. The letter to the Hebrews tells us: “Christ came once for all … to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” What made the widow’s gift supremely human was that she gave everything she had: her last two coins. What made it splendidly religious was that it resembled what Jesus himself would offer on the cross: himself.

Like the widow, Jesus gave all he had. With nothing left to give, he gave himself: “This is my body, which is given for you.” Out of this poverty, he put in the treasury of the Father everything he had, his whole living, his whole dying. No security… total risk…trust in God alone. The result? Redemption. You and I, the whole of humanity, have our sins taken away.

The story of the widow, and even more, the deed of Christ, suggests strongly that the new thing he brought into the world is summed up in his phrase, “out of her poverty.” This means we are most Christian, most Christlike, when our giving affects our existence, when it threatens our security, when it is ultimately ourselves we are giving away. How could it be ourselves? Like it or not, it is the crucified Christ, who is the supreme pattern, the model for Christian living, for Christian giving. And the crucified Christ gives himself.

Christ speaks to you not in an impersonal form letter addressed to “All Christians everywhere.” He speaks to you where you’re at. You and he know who you are, where your gifts lie, what keeps you from risking, why you keep giving out your surplus. Christ alone can tell you at what point, and in what way, you have to surrender what lends you security; what keeps you from going out to your brothers and sisters with trust only in the power of a loving God.

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