1 Kings 17:10-16
Mark 12:38-44 or 12:41-44
When Jody Richards saw a homeless man begging outside a downtown Washington, DC McDonald’s, he bought the man a cheeseburger. No one noticed, except a sociologist doing a study on the poor. And there was nothing unusual about this, except that Richards was homeless, too, and the 99-cent cheeseburger represented a lavish chunk of the $9.50 he had earned that day from panhandling.
Like that sociologist, Jesus was in the Temple doing his own study on the poor – and rich. He "sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury."
In Temple area, scholars tell us, were 13 collection boxes, each fitted with a brass horn-like funnel. The people would throw in their brass coins, which by their very weight and force would make a loud clanging noise. The noisier the clanging, the more obviously generous, wealthy and powerful were the donors. And all could admire their public display of generosity.
Then came a widow, who tossed two pitiful mites (Greek lepta), the smallest and least valuable coins into the brass funnel; they barely made a clink. No one heard, no one noticed.
Except for a sociologist who observed the homeless Washington, DC beggar buying a cheeseburger for a fellow homeless person, no one noticed; there was no loud clanging to mark his remarkable generosity. Except for Jesus, who observed the widow tossing her two coins, her mite, in the box, no one noticed; there was no loud clanging to mark her lavish trust in God.
Jesus was clearly unimpressed by the world’s ostentatious clanging of wealth and power and honor. Instead, he calls us, like the widow, to lavish him with our trust in God. To all the world, it will sound like the insignificant, weak clink of a widow’s mite. But to the ears of Jesus, it will thunder with the deafening clang of a widow’s might.
Deacon Manuel Valencia is on the staff at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.