I wonder if Jesus’ observation flew right over the heads of his Disciples, like someone who is slow to get a joke. Except here we have no joke being spoken at the treasury department of 1st century Palestine. The observation that 12 Disciples are being called to imitate a widow and her two coins, as opposed to the bigshots standing nearby with the long robes and happy salutations. Jesus actually told his chosen few that the widow was their Saint to look up to. My guess is they didn’t get the non-joke. It went right over their heads.
Why would our Lord choose a widow who drops her two cents into the treasury as the model for Christian discipleship? Is it her generous nature? That could certainly be part of the answer for us, that we are to be generous toward one another in word and deed. Generosity is not limited to the rich, as we see in this Gospel story. Most of us have the capacity to be generous financially, whatever our respective numbers in any monetary institution, or whatever we hide under the mattress.
Or maybe Jesus chose the poor widow to be the model of discipleship because she looks and dresses more like the Lord that she does the long-robed scribes. We wish not to throw any good clothing stores under the bus, but would you trust more a preacher who dresses simply, or one who is flashy, wears three watches, and talks really fast?
Simplicity, which the widow defines to a tee, is one of the surest virtues that connect us to Jesus. Granted, we have no photos of Christ from the 1st century, with no Facebook back then. But if Jesus is critical of the long robes that stand aside of long egos, you just know our Lord didn’t shop at Brooks Brothers, which has some really nice clothes. The widow as a model of simplicity, however, is not defined by her simple clothing, but in her simplicity of heart. In that, she models Christ, as well as not being a fast talker, for she speaks not one word in the Gospel.
Or, as just mentioned, maybe Jesus chose the widow as the perfection of Christian discipleship because she has no ego, therefore, she possesses great humility. A Christian disciple embraces always the virtue of humility. No humility, no discipleship for Christ.
How do we know the widow was humble and not an arrogant poor woman? Her silence coupled with her generous nature is certainly telling. I know people who are extremely generous … and silent. And the ones I know are deeply humble. They’re not poor, but there’s something Godly to be said for generosity and silence in the same act. But even more, we know the widow was humble because the Son of God raises her as an example of what he admires. Jesus is a big fan of the widow.
More than all these above virtues though, the number one reason why our Lord chooses the poor widow as the perfection of Christian discipleship is because, as Pope Benedict XVI once observed about the widow, she gave her entire self. And that’s why Jesus highlights her actions in the treasury in front of his disciples; to give their entire lives to him, and the same for us. Not because he’s some sort of egomaniac, or that he’s looking to expand an army to conquer nations – although spiritually and lovingly he does want that. Jesus looks for the 12 to give him their heart, soul, mind, and strength as we heard in last week’s Gospel because he doesn’t want our jar of flour to go empty, nor our jug of oil to run dry. A vibrant faith in him is the road to effective discipleship.
The 12 will shed their blood for him, minus one, if they are to succeed at bringing the Good News of salvation to the world they encounter. A mean world at times, where many folks in the 1st century will be offended by the “Jesus message.” “Who are you to tell us pagans that this crucified man is the Messiah?” Many others will open their hearts to the Good News; others will kill the Apostles. If the Disciples don’t give their all like the widow – drinking from the same cup of martyrdom that Jesus drank from – then God’s message of peace and salvation will be overpowered by godlessness, which runs rampant in our culture today.
The generous, silent widow is our model for Christian discipleship too. Jesus points her out for more than her generosity, her simplicity, her lack of ego, her humility, and her silence. Although those alone are a really good ticket to heaven. She’s our model in the 21st century because, as they say in baseball, and as the Red Sox did, she leaves it all on the field. She left it all in the treasury.
The retired Pope who is now living the monastic life in Rome is spot on; she gave it all. And that’s what our Savior seeks from us. Faith is faith when we don’t hold back, whether times are easy or difficult. Faith is true faith in Christ when we put forth the expanse of our lives, as parents, grandparents, single people, clergy or lay persons, doing all for Christ, and not for the sideshows in this world, starting with politics.
The poor widow was definitely poor by the standards of any time. But in giving her all, she didn’t laugh all the way to the bank, for there was nothing left to deposit. She laughed all the way up Jacob’s Ladder as she climbed to heaven. May she intercede with Jesus for us.