Once upon a time, the son of a poor widow wins the lottery. With his huge earnings, he decides to buy his poor mother a pet. He goes to the pet store and asks about the most expensive pet in the store. The owner informs him of an exotic parrot for $50,000.00. It can recite the Ten Commandments and can speak back scripture. He buys the bird and sends to his mother. The next day, the son calls his mother. “Mom, did you get the bird?” “Oh, yes, son, she says, “it was delicious.”
Widows teach us about trusting God.
For example, the prophet Elijah visits the town of Zarephath. He encounters widow gathering sticks. She is gathering sticks for her last meal with her son. Having no rights, no money, and no one to support her she prepares for death; that is, until the prophet appears. He asks for water. He asks for food. The widow protests. But Elijah insists and informs her of God’s design. So, the widow of Zarephath gives her last bit of food to the guest. And what happens? She and her son ate, and they lived.
Today, widows teach us about trust in God.
St. Mark’s story of the widow’s mite is famous. The word comes from the King James Version from a culture that called a small coin, a “mite.” Basically, it was less than a quarter. But let us look at the entire scene that Mark paints for us today.
In the middle of teaching, Jesus watches the scribes. The scribes love to be greeted in public as dignitaries. They compete for places of honor at the synagogues and at banquets. And they cheat widows even as they recite lengthy prayers at the temple. To illustrate, Jesus watches a widow come to the temple. Now officials often extract extra coinage from people to cheat them. We are not quite sure why the widow dropped in everything. But there might be several reasons. First, maybe someone cheated her. Second, maybe she wanted to give her whole life to God. Third, if she gave everything, and had children at home, would not that be irresponsible? There is no praise or criticism from Jesus as he watches this scene. He calls over his disciples and uses tells them to look at her actions.
What do these widows and scribes teach us today?
They teach us several lessons but for now, we can learn about divine opportunity. Human beings horde things. We horde ideas. We horde money. We horde vision. We horde friends. We horde time. We horde and then we hide. But we cannot get away from God nor can we hide or horde. Jesus observes the widow as an example of giving her whole self. Jesus observes the scribes as sycophant snobs.
There will come a day…and… maybe today is the day when God will show up while we are down and out…like the widow of Zarephath. And while we are busy picking up the sticks of “woe-is-me-I-am-nobody” type of thinking, God will ask for something. God will ask us for our whole life. How will we recognize the question? Has anyone of you ever had a nagging thought of becoming a priest or a religious? Does your conscience keep whispering to you that it is not moral to walk over the poor? Does a little voice inside keep telling you to pray more, go to church more and to read the scriptures more? There will come a day when God will show up during our poverty and God will offer us salvation. Hopefully, we will be eager…to run to him with all our mite!
Fr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.