1Kgs 17. 10-16; Ps 146; Hb 9. 24-28; Mk 12. 38-44
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Jesus saw the crowds; the religious professionals—the scribes, Pharisees, elders; wealthy people; and his disciples. Jesus spoke to everyone, and when we hear and read Jesus speaking to his disciples, Jesus is addressing us, his disciples today, the church.
The two scenes in today’s gospel—Jesus’ remarks about the scribes and a poor widow may seem connected by a slender thread of coincidence. So we may ask, “Do Jesus’ words speak to us?” I suggest that they remind us that God protects God’s faithful, and they urge us to act with confidence in that protection.
When Jesus addressed the crowds, his disciples heard him, too. His disciples knew that scribes had the legal right to administer estates. They earned that trust by their standing as religious leaders. Some scribes were trustworthy, yet by Jesus’ day enough had squandered the estates of many to enrich themselves. Greed was a human temptation not limited to the scribes. Jesus knew that. He named them as only one example of what to beware, much the way people warn friends to beware people who won’t be fair with them. As we say and hear, “Watch out for scam artists who….” Jesus warned his disciples about people who made a show of their faith instead of living it and living by it.
Greed is a symptom of a need to be in greater control of one’s life. The word life includes both human life and one’s possessions. From the vision of faith, however, my human life and all I have are gifts to me from my Creator. All—life & possessions—are given us to manage and manage well. It’s false to think 90% is mine and 10% is God’s. All is God’s, who gives to humans to manage as best they can.
Confident faith frees us to be loving stewards. Confident faith has practical aspects, which Jesus may have been teaching the crowds that day, of honesty and fairness not exploitation and greed. In the crowd Jesus saw the poor widow. She was his parable! The poor widow modeled confident faith because she came to the treasury and put in two small coins worth a few cents. She did not put in one and keep one for herself. Her confident faith that God would safeguard her and guide her journey through life freed her. Moreover, Jesus saw how she and the crowd put in their offerings. As it happens so often, we with more have more to distract us from giving freely and faithfully.
What is our new purpose? This parable of Jesus is less about money and more about our manner of living. Because we eagerly await him, this is our new purpose: we desire to make Jesus’ faith ours and to put Jesus’ faith into action until he comes to bring salvation to us and to many who will come to know him because of our manner of living.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, ease into an awareness of the Trinity recreating you. Ask the poor widow to present you to Jesus. Thank Jesus for you faith and consider how freely you live your faith: Am I a good steward of God’s many gifts? Am I a loving steward, or am I an anxious steward, who needs to manage anxiety more than God’s gifts? Ask Jesus for the grace to live your faith more freely. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave it to us to say daily, so we might live more freely this day, this hour, this moment. For not by our schemes but by faith’s freedom are we parables for each other and everyone we meet.