32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time B
November 14, 2018 by
David Jackson in
Reflections on Sunday Gospels
Lessons from widows.
Two unnamed widows are featured in the readings today. They are offered to us as persons who are examples of generosity. From the little they have to survive on they are willing to give. Yet in the Gospel Mark places two incidents together which give us something more to think about.
Homily: In the first part of the Gospel we have some of Jesus’ strongest words in condemnation of those who love to walk about in long robes, love greetings in the marketplace, and love the first bench in the synagogues and the first couches at dinners. The scribes are caricatured as wishing special privilege and status at every stage of social life. These are hard words. But the words get even harder. “They devour the houses (estates) of widows and, as a pretext recite, lengthy prayers.” Jesus says of them: “They will receive a very severe condemnation.”
Protection of orphans and widows was according to the Jewish religion to be a special concern of all. The widows (who are a socially vulnerable class in this male oriented society) are exploited while the scribal class is further endowed. Some have said that Jesus debunks scribal piety because it is simply a thin veil to conceal their economic opportunism and exploitation. Mark tells us their prayers are a pretext. The site of scribal prayer is the temple, and the cost of this temple is devouring the resources of the poor.
When my mother became ill and I began paying her bills and opening her mail I felt that I was in contact with a similar phenomena. How many appeals my mother received from so many causes? So many of them arrived under the shield of being religious causes. Jesus criticizes “piety” as a mask for “robbery.”
One scripture scholar has said of this Gospel passage: “The story does not provide a pious contrast to the conduct of the scribes in the preceding section (as is the customary view); rather it provides a further illustration of the ills of official devotion. Jesus’ saying is not a penetrating insight on the measuring of gifts; it is a lament¼Jesus condemns the value system that motivates her action, and he condemns the people who conditioned her to do it.” In this interpretation the Temple is robbing her of her very means of livelihood. He considers this an example of “the devouring of a widow’s house.” The Temple, like the scribal class, no longer protects the poor, but crushes them. In this context Jesus words are seen as a lament not as praise. Recently there was a post about the wealth of some prominent preachers. To me the numbers were staggering. I think Jesus’ words apply here as well: Jesus criticizes “piety” as a mask for “robbery.” There continue to be “ills of devotion/s”.
We know we are living in an aging society. How many of you have received from AARP an application for membership when you were just 50? In our political campaigns the issues of the elderly are prominent: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, cost of medicines, etc. We even have a national collection to seek financial aid for the communities of nuns who have an aging membership with few new recruits and sources of income. This is also a reality for priests. Our bishop has an annual dinner to seek funds for the retired priests.
Each of us needs to reflect on the elderly in our midst. What are their needs and how are we treating them? We must first examine how we personally are treating them. How are we doing as a parish in showing concern for our elderly? What could we improve?
But how are our social institutions (Adult Day care, SunGlo, TLC, etc.) treating them? How are our health care facilities treating them, our doctors’ offices and doctors, our home health care groups, our hospitals, our clinics? How is our government treating them, local government, our county government, our state government and our federal government?
That our elderly are generous is a given for most of us. But that’s not enough¼..