Our
Fellowship

Our
Branch

AHC B The Widow’s Coins Ordinary - Hebrew Catholics

Association of

Hebrew Catholics

New Zealand Branch

The Widow’s Coins

Ordinary 32      Year B

A Hebrew Catholic Perspective

Click here for a printable copy of this paper

St. Mark 12: 38 — 44

 

Introduction

In our series of meditations, the previous one dealt with the perennial question: What is the great Commandment? The answer from our Lord has left us with a perfect rule of life. If we may paraphrase it His message was something like:

1.   Be listening always, Israel, to this paramount truth:
      God is One — the only One! All we have and enjoy
      comes from God on account of His total, undivided
      and indivisible love.

2.   Therefore, you shall love God with all your heart,
      soul, mind, and strength, i.e. with the whole of your
      being. You cannot keep anything back!

3.   You shall also love your neighbour in the same way
      you value, love and treasure your own being.

In our meditation we reflected on our Lord’s manifestation of Himself as the one who loves as God commands. In a couple of days He will renew His call as a “new commandment” — “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Following this lesson Jesus went on to apply His teaching about showy religion and other matters. The text written by St. Mark shows our Lord taking up a particular position in the Temple precincts.

For the student of Sacred Scripture we recommend our Appendix: Introductory Text by way of preparation.

Click here for a printable copy of the text

 

Some Reflections on the Text

Verse 41

He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd
put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums.

We have a glimpse of Jesus placing Himself where He can see (literally) how people cast money into the collection devices. (These were 13 trumpet shaped boxes into which people placed their gifts.)

There were plenty of unfortunate people in the vicinity who could be healed or at least helped; but for now Jesus is sitting, recovering from sessions of intensive teaching.

We note how St. Mark genuinely acknowledges the generosity of many rich people who threw in large amounts of money. Admittedly, the more people threw in, the lower the noise made in the trumpet shaped box. Perhaps we could presume that some of the people Jesus observed, were doing it to impress. But there were many devout and Godly Jews in Israel in our Lord’s day, and some were known to be very generous.

Verse 42

A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth
a few cents.

We are told that the widow in this account is “poor”, meaning not just of low estate, but having no secure income. In other words, she does not know when she will next be able to contribute to the care of the Temple. She comes and goes unnoticed except for our Lord’s observation. She places two virtually worthless coins # into the Temple fund — so worthless that the Temple laws forbade anyone to put such coins in. She receives no acknowledgement for her presence nor for her gift; and certainly, no word of comfort.

# virtually worthless coins ― The coin she used was the ‘lepton,’ the lowest in value of all
                                             coins ― worth
approximately just 1% of a day’s wages, i.e. the denarius.

The wealthy, of course, are noticed, and no doubt are complimented on their generosity.
But we must remember that when Jesus talks about being rich, and how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God, he is referring to those who make an absolute claim on their wealth no matter how much or how little they actually own!

•   Here, our Lord is not commenting on the wealthy. He is not
     even talking about the poor. He is completing His lesson on
     the Great Commandment which is to love God wholly and
     not partially; to keep nothing for self. The widow’s gift is
     judged not by the amount she gave, but by the amount
     she 
kept for herself! ― Nothing!                            (Cole)

•    Jesus makes it clear that what God wants is people and not
     their money! The gift God wants is all our heart, mind, soul
     and strength. Jesus could have said to the woman, “You should
     keep these two coins. You need them more than the Temple
     management. Anyway, the rich have given enough for the
     upkeep of the Temple. Your two coins would buy half a corn
     cob; go and give yourself a meal. It could be your last for quite
     a while.”

But Jesus doesn’t make any such suggestion to her. Rather He allows her to come and make her gift of everything to God; then to go, and return to her poverty ― but not without His comment! ― For in her, Jesus recognises Himself.    (Stock OSB)

Verses 43 and 44

Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them,
“Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than
all the other contributors to the treasury.

For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth,
but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had,
her whole livelihood.”

As the woman turns to leave, Jesus calls His disciples over to Him for formal rabbinic instruction. His opening words are normal when He wants to reinforce the moment with due solemnity. (“Amen, I say to you.” Some readers would remember the old formula as:
“Verily, verily, or truly, truly I say unto you.”)

He makes three strong, clear statements:

1.   “This poor widow put two coins into the Treasury
       when she could have put just one.

2.   “The others gave from what they did not need, the
       left-over money.”
       (Note: Jesus does not denigrate their gifts. He simply points
         out that she gave more.)

3.   “She, in dire need, gave what she needed. And she
       needed all she gave.” She could reasonably have kept
       at least one of the coins for
herself, but in a spirit of
       total love for God, gave, literally,
“her whole life!”
       She has therefore
put more into the Temple treasury
       than all the others added together!”

At this point Jesus ends His short lesson and walks out of the Temple. There is nothing more to add, other than to hold in our hearts His implied lesson ― “Go and do likewise!”

 

Shalom!

 

Further Reading

For those who would like a detailed study resource
on the readings for Sunday, please visit:

Agape Bible Study — Ordinary 32 ― Year B

If you require only the section on the Gospel reading,
just scroll down the page.

To view all the material on the Agape website please visit:

www.agapebiblestudy.com

This website is highly recommended:

 

“Proclaim the Gospel to Every Creature”

(St. Mark 16: 15)

Let us remember God’s Teaching, contained in His Word and in doing
so, remain close to Him. [The following are only examples illustrating
how you can note the gems the Holy Spirit highlights for your on-going
reflection.]

The Widows’s Coins

Ordinary 32     Year B           St. Mark 12: 38 — 44

1.   The incident of the widow’s coins is not just a nice little story which St. Mark happens to make note of. It is a powerful capping stone to the teaching of Jesus on the great over-arching Commandment which must remain ringing in our ears ― morning and evening, every day of our lives. And that is:

•     The Lord our God is the Lord alone.
•     Therefore you shall love God with every part of your
       being, holding nothing back.
•     And you shall love your neighbor in the same way you
      value, love, and treasure your own being.

      The poor widow in this Gospel account kept nothing for herself. And this is how Jesus looked upon what she gave, judging it not by how much she gave but by how much she kept for herself.

2.    Jesus did not suggest to the widow that her two virtually worthless coins wouldn’t make any difference to the care of the Temple, and that she should therefore go and buy half a corn cob before she starves. Not at all. Our Lord allows her to make her gift of everything she has to God ― in humble dignity, and then to return home to her poverty and dire need. For in her, Jesus recognises Himself. He too, is about to abandon His life in total trust to God ― without holding anything back.

3.    In a few day’s time, our Lord will complete His Commandment of love. The story of the poor widow’s two coins in Mark help us to link to this special formulation recorded by St. John:

“A new commandment I give you: love one another;
As I love you, so I want you, too, to love one another.”
                                                   (John 14: 34)

      This “new commandment” is not “new” because it had never been said before. In fact it is ancient ― but there is a new dimension. The members of the Church, the Body of Christ, the restored Household of God, are to love one another with the love of Jesus Christ. He will enable His followers, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, to love God and neighbour, holding nothing back ― trusting everything to God’s love.

      It is in this way, our Lord will enable us to obey the Great Commandment, the way He commanded. As we have observed so often in the Gospels, God does not command the impossible, but rather, the perfect. Our meditations then disclose to us how this can come to fruition.

      As the close of the Christian year approaches, it is helpful to make a few links like this with other Gospel passages.

      “We can love God with all our might, and our neighbour as ourself ― when we surrender everything to God and let the love of Jesus Christ fill the whole of our being. Jesus does not command us to give away our last penny, but He does call for a generous heart.”

Blessed be God in His Angels and in His Saints. Amen.

 

Shalom!

Click here for a printable copy of these Reflections.

 

 Mark 12: 38 ― 44

Ordinary 32    Year B

NEW AMERICAN BIBLE

38      7  In the course of his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes,
          who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the  
          marketplaces,

39       seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets.

40       They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite
           lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.”

― ― ― ― ― ―

41       8 He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how
           the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people
           put in large sums.

42       A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth
           a few cents.

43       Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen,
           I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the
           other contributors to the treasury.

44       For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth,
           but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had,
           her whole livelihood.”

7 [38-40] See the notes on Mark 7:1-23 and Matthew 23:1-39.

8 [41-44] See the note on ⇒ Luke 21:1-4.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible,
revised edition
(c) 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington D.C. and are used by permission of the
copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part
of the New American
Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in

writing from the copyright owner.

 

 Appendix: Introductory Text

Some national lectionaries precede our text with verses 38 to 40, and we have included these on our printable copy of the text.

Verses 38 ― 40

38     7  In the course of his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes,
          who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the  
          marketplaces,

39      seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets.

40      They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite
           lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.”

It is quite common for people preaching or teaching this text to (virtually) demonise any reference to scribes and Pharisees, basing their justification for doing so on these verses. We therefore clarify this point for our readers. Two great authorities on this text, Nida and Bratcher, make the following comment in their Translator’s Handbook (UBS):

Exegesis:
―   (en te didache autou) ‘in His teaching’, ‘while he was
       teaching’
―   didache has here the active meaning of ‘act of teaching’ (cf. 1: 22).
   blepete apo (cf. 8: 15) ‘watch out for’, ‘be on the lookout against’
―   ton grammateon ton thelonton ‘the scribes who like’.
       The participle thelonton ‘liking’, having the article before it, is
       attributive, and so defines and particularises the noun
       (‘the scribes’)
thus scribes who like to walk about, etc.:
―   He is not, according to the wording of the text, accusing all
       scribes of ostentation and hypocrisy.

Thus it is perfectly clear that Jesus is not condemning all the authorities, but rather specifying which ones His disciples ought to watch out for. Good advice in any culture!

 End

 Click here for a printable copy of this Appendix

[Site Under Construction]