f we read the gospel of Mark, it is interesting to note that women take a huge part in the narrative of Jesus - women are exemplified as brave, generous and joyful even in some encounters with Jesus - they were the ones who challenged him. They are also the women in our lives.
But often these women are unnamed and living outside or periphery of society. In our gospel today Jesus directed everyone’s attention to a poor widow putting in her two small coins and told his disciples, “… this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury; for they have all put in money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.”
Women are vulnerable because of gender discrimination in many societies including the Philippines. Further in the time of Jesus, a highly patriarchal society a widow (woman) is made even more vulnerable because their security (economic and social) is often tied to men - from birth to their fathers and in marriage to their husbands.
The woman in our story is thrice vulnerable - one for being a woman, another for being a widow and third for being poor. Yet here she is a model of true giving and discipleship.
What can we learn from the poor widow?
God sees differently. Bigger gifts get noticed everywhere even in church. But Jesus only saw the poor widow and her offering of two coins. The coins may have not made any noise as they drop down into the treasury of the temple but they surely made the loudest noise in the treasury of heaven. And Jesus noticed and heard it.
God does not know how to count. When it comes to counting and evaluating which has greater value or not, God seems to go against human standards. To men, the two coins of the poor widow only added up to a penny but for Him, she had given more than everyone else that day. And the difference is not small but huge. The rich gave from their surplus but she gave from her everything - all she had to live on.
God appreciates our gifts given in faith. Often times we feel small and negligible before God - that we have nothing to offer him that he could use. In the gospel the woman gave her last two coins in faith the God could use it. We do not know what happened to the widow after this incident. But I believe God provided her all that she needed. I am often reminded of this young person who told me that God does not always give what we want but He always gives what we need. “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver,” St. Paul writes to the Corinthians. God is faithful to his people.
Jesus invited the disciples to imitate the poor widow who gave from her poverty. Jesus invites us to be like her - give without fear but with faith.
Pope Benedict XVI once said in a homily that “Nobody is so poor that they can not donate something… today the widow show her faith by undertaking an act of charity. Thus she attests to the indissoluble unity between faith and charity, as well as between love of God and love of neighbor - as last Sunday’s Gospel reminds us.
He quoted another pope, Saint Leo the Great, “The scales of divine justice do not weigh the amount of gifts, but the weight of hearts. The widow of the Gospel deposited into the treasury two small coins and surpassed all the gifts of the rich. No act of kindness is meaningless before God, no mercy is fruitless.” He added that we must also turn to the example of the Virgin Mary “…who gives herself completely trusting in God, with this faith she said to the angel “Here I am” and welcomed the Lord’s will.
Let us grow to be like her: brave, generous and joyful.