Jesus sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents Calling his disciples, 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." MK 12: 41-44

Money is both a "thing" and a symbol; it is the currency by which most of us are paid, our means of performing financial transactions, and also an indicator of our ability to participate in society. The expression, "What's he worth?" or, "What's she worth?" illustrates this perfectly. What it indicates is that the worth of a human being can be measured by how much--or how little--that person owns. It goes to follow that those who
have more are worthier of respect than those who have less-- or so society would have us believe. If truth be told, society has believed this since money replaced bartering as a means of exchanging goods and services. Take, for example, the juxtaposition of "rich people" with the "poor widow" in today's Gospel: the rich, conscious of making a good impression, toss large amounts of money into the treasury while the widow (herself a symbol of poverty and insignificance) drops in her two humble coins. Watching the scene unfold, Jesus points out the widow's generosity to his disciples. Most likely, his closest followers were impressed by the display of immense wealth on the part of the rich donors; they only notice the widow because Jesus instructs them to look at her carefully--to actually SEE her.

The widow in Mk 12:41-44 is remarkable because she gives away her very means of survival, unlike the rich who give from their surplus. Her donation costs her everything, whereas the contributions of the wealthy won't hurt them in the slightest-- there is plenty more where their donations came from! What is the widow worth? Zero, in terms of money and Zero in terms of her position in society. Jesus, however, singles her out for praise because of her sacrifice. It may be that he also comments on her piety, her humility, and her trust in God, but Mark does not record this in his narrative.

And what about us? Do we give God from our surplus or from our scarcity? The question is not so much about money as it is about attitude; nor does it apply only to money, but to every aspect of life--our time, our talent and our treasure. Do we give "everything," like both the widow in the Gospel and the widow in our first reading, or do we give only what we can spare? Do we see God as the source of all that we have and all that we are, or do we somehow feel entitled to our "time, talent and treasure"? Does our love for God prompt us to pour ourselves out in service and to empty our coffers so that God's work may be done, or do we hold back, limiting our involvement, calculating what we can afford to give down to the last hour, minute and dime? And when it comes to our relationship with God, do we merely do our duty and fulfill obligatory religious practices or do we do more -- the "more" that God asks of us? Do we take the time to pray when we have deadlines to meet or tasks that we wish to accomplish? Do we use our talents in God's service or do we use them for financial gain only or turn them into hobbies for our own gratification? In Philippians 2:6-8, St. Paul describes Jesus' actions from taking on human likeness to his death on a cross as a radical self-emptying-- a pouring out of everything down to his last drop of blood. The widow in Mk 12:41-44 understands this spiritual principle -- do we?

  1. Do you tend to give from your surplus or from your scarcity?
  2. To what extent does FEAR hold you back from giving more?
  3. Why do you think the widow would give away her entire income?
  4. What do you imagine goes through the minds of the disciples when Jesus praises the widow?