Admiral of Morality: From the Sunday Readings

Sunday, November 12, 2006

From the Sunday Readings

In the temple, the Lord denounces the scribes and speaks up for the widow
Mark 12:38 (NRSV) As he taught, he said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows' houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation." He sat 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."

The Lord tells us throughout His Gospel that the first will be last, and the last will be first. The Gospel reading here illustrates the principle well.

In the passage, the Lord has arrived in Jerusalem and is teaching in the Temple. He has just been asked who He is, and has quoted Psalm 110 to identify Himself as the Lord of history and of all creation. The passage presents us with two contrasting symbols: the powerful scribes who control teaching, and the poor widow who has no voice. The Lord warns against the scribes, famous symbols of hypocrisy and a legalism that thwarts the Word and the will of God. The words are simple and clear: "They devour widows' houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers." And since she has no one speaking for her, the Lord himself speaks up for the poor widow who brings a gift for God out of her love and faith. The scribes are in positions of prominence and use their status to proclaim themselves, maintain their status, and harm others. They have inverted the way of God. He demands justice, love, and mercy. The widow is powerless, penniless—but faithful. She has no power or status, yet still thanks God with the gift of a penny.

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