I read a very interesting observation on today’s gospel. To begin with, every now and then, we read of exposes of certain charities and mega-churches who have misused the funds offered by good people to support them – thinking they are supporting a good work only to find that the majority of the funds go into the lifestyles of those running the appeals. To its credit Share Life keeps its administrative costs to a minimum.
Usually these people prey on lonely seniors who love to get mail and to be told “we’ll pray for you”. In hearing today’s gospel probably most of us centered on the poor widow who gave all she had to live on for the support of the Temple, but really the most important part of today’s gospel is at the very beginning, when Jesus warns us to avoid the phoniness of the scribes – wearing their long clothes – their pushiness at demanding the best seats, and especially their devouring of the homes of widows. It sounds as if these some of these men took over the personal affairs of widows and embezzled their funds.
It is interesting to note that Jesus does not praise this widow. He simply points out the implications of her action. She now has nothing to live on. She seems to have been conned into believing that the upkeep of the Temple was more important than her own upkeep. Jesus never guarantees that the widow will be taken care of by God after she has given everything.
Mark could have been writing about what was going on in the Christian community of his time. It may have been that some people in his community were pushing the idea that helping the institution was more important, and more praiseworthy than helping the poor, for whom that institution should be concerned.
Today’s gospel has implications for the situation of the Church today. We’ve discovered that many of our leaders were convinced that the good reputation of the institution was more important than the welfare of abused children and their families. Thankfully that has changed. Our leaders have realized that helping the victims is more important than protecting the image and reputation of the Church.
The real heroine in today’s readings is the widow of Zarephath. She doesn’t give her last cent to keep a building up to code. She gives to a person in need and shares in the concrete reward. “the jar of meal did not go empty, the jug of oil did not fail until the day the Lord sent rain upon the earth.”
What are the implications of today’s reading for us? I’m certainly not suggesting you hold back from supporting the parish. As we always say ‘be as generous as your own means allow. But we do have to keep our priorities straight.
People come before property and buildings – and in our own lives and in the life of the church honesty and integrity are far more important than shoring up a false impression of who we are and what we are about.