(Begin by reading the Gospel. Sometimes it is good to have someone read it to you. The Word is meant to be heard.)
In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus and his friends are at the Temple in Jerusalem. We know that Jerusalem is the most holy city for the Jewish people because this is where the Temple is. Inside the Temple, God has made a home. The Temple, built on the highest point in the city, can be seen from all over Jerusalem and even outside the walls. It is ever a reminder of the long-lasting relationship—the covenant relationship—the people have with God. People come from all over the city each day, to pray and make offerings to the Giver of Life. They come to the Temple to celebrate this covenant relationship with the Creator of all that is good. At least, some people do.
As Jesus 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 honour at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
What does Jesus see as he teaches in the Temple? His attention seems to be caught by some of the scribes—those people who study and copy out the Word of God. He must be studying their behaviour, for he notices that a number of them are not here at the Temple to worship. They are not here to celebrate the covenant. What are they doing instead? Strutting around in their long robes. Why? Jesus sees that they want people to notice them, to treat them with respect, to think of them as better than everyone else. Devouring widow's houses? Jesus sees that they benefit from others' misfortune. Saying long prayers? Jesus sees that they do not worship God, but pray "for the sake of appearance"—to look good. Not to be good. Not because they have life from the One who is Good.
When Jesus sees all this in the Temple of God, we wonder what goes on inside of his heart.
Jesus sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums.
The Temple never seems to be finished. Always there are repairs, improvements, upkeep. If it is going to be a beautiful, special home for God, money is needed. At least, that is the idea.
People who study the Bible believe that "the treasury" refers to the collection container for the money. Research shows that it is made of metal and shaped like a trumpet. We know that the people do not have dollar bills, only coins. What a clatter is made as all those coins are dropped into the treasury! Imagine the sound! Everyone around must notice.
What does Jesus see as he watches in the Temple? Does he see people offering what they can in celebration of the life they receive from the Giver of Life? Does he see people offering their money as a way to live the covenant with the Creator of all that is good? Or does he see people hoping to be seen giving large sums of money, to be noticed for their great generosity?
If this is what Jesus sees in the Temple of God, we wonder what goes on inside of his heart.
A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny.
A widow, we know, is a woman whose husband has died. She has known sorrow. At the time of Jesus, women do not have jobs. They do not own property, or houses of their own. Widows rely on others to have mercy on them, to take them in, to provide for them. All that she has comes from the goodness of others. All that she has is gift.
Then Jesus 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.”
What does Jesus see as he watches the widow place her two small coins in the treasury? He certainly does not see someone wanting a great clatter to draw attention to herself.
He sees someone, who knows that all she has is gift, make a gift to God.
He sees someone, who relies on the goodness of others, make an offering to the Creator of all that is good.
He sees someone place her life in the hands of the Giver of Life.
When Jesus sees this in the Temple of God, we wonder what goes on inside of his heart.
From the Temple, built on the highest point of the city, one can see all over Jerusalem and even outside the walls. Perhaps Jesus sees the house of the Last Supper, where he will make a gift of himself to God and to his friends. Perhaps Jesus sees Golgotha, where he will make an offering to the Creator of all that is good. Perhaps he sees the tomb of his burial, where he will be laid after he has placed his own life in the hands of the Giver of Life.
When Jesus sees the poor widow, perhaps he sees himself.
Can we do what she does? Can we take all that we have and make a gift to God?
Does this mean we have to give away our home, our belongings, all of our money? Perhaps. But Jesus shows us that this is not the only way to give all of ourselves.
Does that mean we have to be martyrs, and die for God? Perhaps, but not necessarily, and hopefully not. God is the God of Life, after all!
There are other ways of making an offering of ourselves without making a big clatter. There are other ways of celebrating the covenant we enjoy with God without strutting around needing people to notice us. Perhaps we can think of some ways. Perhaps the Holy Spirit will show us how. Perhaps our hearts will become Temples for God.
When Jesus sees all this in our hearts, we wonder, what goes on inside his?