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Wholehearted giving

Jesus presents to his disciples two contrasting sets of characters; the scribes, who they should be careful not to follow, and the generous, poor widow whose selfless giving is worth imitating.    

The scribes were people who loved to show off their knowledge and their titles, and draw people’s attention; they devoured the widows’ and orphan’s goods (v.40) and made a show of long prayers (v.40). The Lord says they are hypocrites.  

In contrast to the scribes, in the second part of the passage (vv. 41-44) a model of authentic religiosity is introduced: a poor widow. 

This is not the first time in the gospel of Mark that Jesus regards women with affection and admiration.

He recognised the faith of the woman suffering from a hemorrhage: “Daughter, your faith has saved you” (Mark 5:34). He was astonished by the faith of the Syro-Phoenician, who declared herself satisfied with the crumbs that fall under the table prepared for the children. Deeply moved, Jesus exclaimed, “Woman, how great is your faith” (Matthew 15:28; Mark 7:24-30). These first two women are models of faith. 

The widow of today’s gospel and  the one who a few days later anointed his head “with very expensive perfume, made of pure nard” (Mark 14:3) are models of generosity. 

The widow, unlike the rabbis who flaunt their religion, performs her gesture without attracting anyone’s attention, without being noticed. This woman did not know Jesus, did not listen to his teaching, did not respond to a call from him and was not his disciple.

She did not follow him, as did the Twelve and many other women who accompanied him during the three years of public life (Luke 8:1-3), but behaves in an evangelical way, as Jesus advised, “When you give something to the poor do not have it trumpeted before you, as do those who want to be seen in the synagogues and in the street, in order to be praised by the people. If you give something… do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so that your gift remains really secret” (Matthew 6:1-4).

True love should be total. The love of God must involve the whole person, “You shall love the Lord your God,” Jesus ordered, “with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30) and the love of neighbour must also be without reservation. 

The widow is presented as a model of this love. Unlike the rich who threw in the treasury many coins, she did not put many, she threw all that she had, indeed, the Greek text specifies, “She gave from her poverty and put in everything she had, her very living” (v.44).

Even one who is poor, like the widow in today’s gospel, is called to give everything. There is no one so poor that they don’t have something to offer, and no one so rich that they don’t need to receive from others. 

For all of her love, the widow becomes not only the image of a true disciple, but also of God and Jesus Christ—as Paul points out—“although he was rich, he made himself poor to make us rich through his poverty” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

The place of the clearest revelation of God’s face is Calvary. That’s where God showed his identity. He does not pretend, but offers, gives all of himself to people. 

He does not want people to bow down to him, but he wants them to kneel in front of the brothers and sisters. He does not ask them to give him their life, but that, with him, they make it available to the brothers and sisters.

The widow is the image of God and of Christ, because she was stripped of everything she owned and made it a gift to others.

Father Fernando Armellini CMF
Claretian Publications