A reflection on this Sunday’s Mass by Sr Kym Harris osb and downloaded from http://www.prayasyoucan.com.au
Life is complex and, as Christians, we look to the Bible to give us direction on how to live. But we are going to be disappointed if we think that we are going to find easy answers to our issues. Take this Sunday’s story, commonly known as ‘The Widow’s Mite’. We may be forgiven for thinking it is about generous giving. But, considering it in its wider context, it is more a critique of nature of giving within the religious legal system of Jesus’ time. Jesus severely criticised the scribes, the judicial religious experts, for ‘devouring the estates of widows’ i.e. that is they used their legal powers to swindle the vulnerable. He then went on to attack the way money was collected for the Temple. The collection box at the treasury was a copper funnel shaped container which resounded according to how much was put it. Thus when the wealthy gave, all could hear the mighty rush of coins echoing around. The piteous ‘ping, ping’ of the widow would have sounded destitute in contrast. Such widows couldn’t win out in any way, legally vulnerable, even their generous giving was up for ridicule.
So on one side, we have hypocritical religious experts and wealthy donors ensuring that what they do is seen by all in order to attract praise. On the other hand, we have a weak and vulnerable person pressurised by the religious system into making herself even more destitute. In this drawing by Paul Delaroche (click red text) we see a widow with two small children giving her all. It is obvious what is happening. Jesus wasn’t showing extraordinary powers of observation when he said she gave her all. Why weren’t the religious experts and the wealthy coming to her aid rather than expecting her to give? Simply because the source of their religious practice was misplaced. It was not a work of the heart, a desire to love God and neighbour but rather their practice had been distorted into a passion for self-glorification.