This Sunday's Readings
1 Kings 17:10-16
Through Elijah, a widow and her son are blest with enough flour and oil to supply them for a year.
Psalm 146:7,8-9 9-10
A prayer of praise to God who raises up the lowly
Christ died once to take away sin; he will return again to bring salvation.
Mark 12:38-44 (shorter form, Mark 12:41-44)
Jesus notices a poor widow's offering and commends her great sacrifice.
Background on the Gospel Reading
The context for today's Gospel continues to be mounting tension between Jesus and the Jewish authorities. Mark reports some of Jesus' teaching in the Temple area in today's reading and in the preceding verses not included in our Lectionary sequence. In the first part of today's Gospel, we hear Jesus warn the crowds not to follow the example of the scribes in seeking honor and attention from others. It is important to recall that Mark indicates that Jesus taught these things while in the vicinity of the Temple in Jerusalem. Mark is setting the stage for Jesus' passion.
Jesus then observes how Jewish pilgrims are making their contributions to the temple treasury. The Temple in Jerusalem was the center of Jewish worship in the time of Jesus. It was expected that observant Jews would make pilgrimages to the Temple to offer prayer and sacrifices. Pilgrims were also expected to make a financial contribution to the temple treasury.
As we would expect to be the case, Jesus observes that those who were rich contributed large sums to the treasury. Those with less means made smaller contributions. A similar situation exists in most of our parishes as well. Jesus calls attention, however, to a poor widow who makes the smallest of contributions—two coins of little value. Jesus upholds the poor widow's offering for his disciples' consideration, commending her because her small offering was an act of profound generosity, giving from her livelihood rather than her surplus.
To give from our livelihood is not only an act of generosity, it is also an act of trust in God. We can only give from our need if we trust that God will provide for us. Jesus himself demonstrates the ultimate act of generosity and trust in God as he gives his life for us on the cross.