As Jesus taught, he said, ‘Beware of the
scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect
in the market-places, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places
of honour at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of
appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’
down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the
treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two
small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and
said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those
who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of
their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all
she had to live on.’
There are two things happening in today’s
gospel. The first is Jesus warns people to beware of the hypocrisy of the
Scribes and not to imitate them. The second is the widow who offers very little
money but is seen by Jesus as more generous than the large donation of the
In the first episode, Jesus condemned
those Scribes for their exaggeration of their own importance by dressing,
walking, and sitting. Jesus noted that the purpose of all their behaviours and
manners was only to make a mockery of the religion they professed to live. In
their hearts, they wished to command people’s reverence to them wherever they
went among people. They might fool their fellow-Jews but they could not fool
In their behaviours and manners, pride
was the predominant vice of the Scribes. Pride is the vice caused the fall of
angels and of mankind. It so governed their lives that even their best actions
were vitiated by it. There is a strong inclination to pride in every one of us.
It is because that we have great gifts from God and great capabilities, but we
are tempted to claim the credit for these gifts and capabilities for ourselves,
whereas we owe them all to God’s generosity.
A Christian is a follower of Christ whose
humility can never be equaled. He was God as well as man. While on earth he
empties himself of his divine glory so that he could be like one of us. A follower
of Christ should not try to make display of gifts which are not his own, nor
try to exalt himself above his neighbour because of something he has which was
given to his neighbour. Love of neighbour is the second of the two commandments
and there can be no true love of neighbour where there is pride.
The second episode in today’s gospel
highlights true humility and true charity. The poor widow forgot of herself and
her own needs. She gave her all, her last penny to help others who were in
need. She made this sacrifice without publicity and fanfare or seeking the
praise of her neighbouts.
It is this strong contrast between her
outlook on life and on religion and that of the Scribes in the first episode
that connects these two episodes. While the Scribes sought to earn the respect
and praise of their neighbours, this poor widow’s religion was practiced in
secret and it was to God alone that she looked for any reward that He might
deign to give her.
Thus, Jesus warns his followers not to
look for the praise and esteem of their neighbours when doing their good work.
They should rather to hope for God’s praise and esteem in the future world.
Both episodes of today’s gospel remind us
that if we are sincerely practicing our religion, we must be ever-ready to help
a neighbour in need even if this cuts into our hard-earned reserves because
Christ gave his very life for us and has asked us to do likewise, if necessary.
The greater the sacrifice, the greater the reward. Amen.