November 12, 2021
by Director of Mission, Mr Geoff Brodie
The Gospel from last Sunday offered one of the more evocative images of the New Testament.
Jesus sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the treasury, and many of the rich put in a great deal. A poor widow came and put in two small coins, the equivalent of a penny. Then he called to his disciples and said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury; for they have all put in money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.’ (Mk 12:41-44)
A widow in Jesus’ times would not have inherited her husband’s assets but would have to rely on the generosity of her children or charity from the community. Despite this challenge, the widow puts in everything she has. The widow chooses to give everything that she can give and holds nothing back for herself. We may be provoked to ask of ourselves, how often do we choose to give without limit? How often do we choose to live our full capacity? Education plays a very important role is assisting our young men to discover what they are capable of, to take possession of the many gifts that God has bestowed on each of us. And just like the widow, the realisation of our potential is in the service of others, in disposing our gifts in the service of our neighbour.
There is one more point that should be made. Scholars (including Donahue and Harrington) raise the possibility that Jesus is critical of the total gift of the widow. They suggest that perhaps Jesus is not directly critical of the widow, but of the society that asks so much of her and causes her undoubted suffering. What type of community would allow such sacrifice? Why does not one of many rich intervene in the ways that justice would suggest? Are we attentive to the sacrifice that many in our families and community make, and should we not step up to shoulder some of the burden? Our own generosity should not be an excuse to allow others to suffer through unrealistic expectations that ignore their unique circumstances.
A Catholic education in the Edmund Rice tradition invites us to resolve this important tension with Jesus as our guide. Love compels us to ‘give without counting the cost,’ if someone asks us to walk a mile, we should offer to walk two. (Matt 5:41) We should follow the instruction of St Paul to “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ,” (Gal 6:2) for Jesus himself says
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30)
We cannot ignore our responsibility to bear the burdens of this life, but with Jesus our capacity to transform all burdens through love will expand to meet and transform any challenge.