Homily: The Intense Faith of the Widow
Note: This week I chose to begin preaching off script but based on the written homily. The delivered homily will be different than the written homily though similar.
Today’s gospel is one of those teachings that people use to proclaim one message and miss a more important message that is actually in there. I am sure you have heard the message before “And let us not forget the poor widow who could only contribute what little she had.”
Is that really what the Gospel is all about. If you look carefully, Jesus talks little about money in the Gospels at all, so why is this story here.
It is here because he is not talking about money as much as about faith. Let us look at the contrasts. You have the leaders and the scribes and the pharisees who are enjoying the benefits of their position. They are highly respected in the community, whether they should be or not, because they symbolize all that is good literally—God and that which comes from God. They are not gods and certainly are human but people see them as representing a greater good that is regardless of whether or not they are that good or whether or not they represent God well.
Now can you think of someone who has a lower status in that society than the poor widow. She is alone, her husband died. We can assume she has no children because we do not see them accompanying here. If they do exist they do not help her. She lives on little and even what little she has she offers to the temple. Why? It is because of her faith. She is demonstrating her trust and love for God. While the others are benefitting from their position, she is actually living her faith and unnoticed.
Her donating to the temple is her duty in a sense but it also reflects her intense trust in the Lord. She knows the Lord well and lives with a powerful faith and trust in Him. Hence, why she is donating to the temple and not worried about whether she will need that money for food. She would be the person who someone comes to in deep anxiety giving her all her problems and she would say just trust in the Lord dear and he will help you through this.
This woman knows her faith and lives it not as a set of rules but as something much greater, much deeper and much less describable. If you met her, you would see the Lord through her, through her trust, her words and the way she lives. She knows the Lord far better than those who are enjoying the benefits of their position.
If life goes south with them, some will abandon the Lord quickly and go elsewhere. However, she may have the faith she does because her life already went south. She is a widow, she had a husband but he has died and she has no children. No one else in either her family or her husband’s family seem to be with her. She may be totally alone but her faith not only sustains her but educates her. She understands God and the world she lives in far greater than all the learned people who do not pray or do not pray well around her. You can imagine her celebrate the morning sunshine as she goes out to till her fields.
This is what Jesus taught. He is also calling us to have that faith. Those who are enjoying the benefits of their office may be financially successful and they may represent God to a point but their faith is no where near as strong as hers. Their faith may be closer to the house built on sand. Would they be able to withstand a terrible persecution? Would their faith be able to withstand a terrible disaster or would their faith crumble in the face of trouble where they would demonstrate that the only believed in God when all things went well.
She has a trust in the Lord so powerful that she is a living example of the expression like a tree planted near running water. While all is well with the others as well all is well in the society, she has a trust in God so powerful that when all has gone south, she not only believes but channels that belief into a love of God and neighbor that reflects a virtual supernatural faith.
Jesus also points her out for a reason. Obviously, she does not contribute much to the operation for the temple but her faith is a more powerful contribution to it. She is like Anna the Prophetess who spoke at Jesus’ circumcision. A deep mystic and woman of faith who radiates her faith to those around her.
Jesus’ final point in speaking of this woman is she is the model for us.
She is the one who suffered much but in her suffering has discovered God’s presence in her life. It is this woman Jesus calls us to exemplify. The others he mention who receive great honors may be held in high esteem but Jesus literally says do not imitate them, they are not whom they appear to be. He instead says be like this poor widow who relies on God at every step.
Karl Marx would call her a fool because he would say she is living via an opium of the poor. She would respond to Karl Marx you are so ignorant for in my poverty is a wisdom that no fool like you would ever understand. Meanwhile those who everyone celebrates and gives the greatest position at weddings may themselves be toasting to the words and philosophy of Karl Marx, reflecting they truly do not understand the ways of God.
The woman knows a powerful truth and she is living it every day. Jesus says look at her, study her and be like her.
As Dorothy Day taught: “To convert the poor, you must be like them; to convert the rich you must be unlike them.”
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