Sunday, November 11, 2012

Merciful Compassion

We share excerpts from this Sunday's homily:

Context is everything. And clearly in this morning’s Gospel, the simplicity and generosity of a poor widow is contrasted with the ostentation and greed of Scribes, who “devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext recite lengthy prayers.” Jesus is always on the side of the poor. And today it seems he is speaking out against the “temple establishment” who have “manipulated” this widow into parting with the pittance she has to live on. Jesus is truly God with us, who as the Psalmist sings: always, always defends the orphan and the widow. He is the tender mercy of the heart of God, a heart always magnetized by poverty and littleness.

 So then, we may wonder, is this poor widow to be imitated for her generosity or pitied as the hapless “victim of religious exploitation?” We can imagine her focus is simply on doing the right thing. Being generous is natural for this woman, and she wants to be in the mix, to do the communal act, get in line with the others and throw in her two cents (literally.) It won’t make a big clang in the collection box like the offerings of the well-heeled; and she could stay on the sidelines and most people would pity her and understand, but she chooses to do otherwise. Duty, generosity are her way of being, and giving to God is everything for her. She freely chooses to give her all. She freely chooses to give from her poverty. And it is this exquisite choice that makes what she does, what she gives, so precious and ultimately so imitable. And of course Jesus notices. How could he not, he himself is the extravagant outpouring of the Father’s reckless love for us?

Jesus really understands the widow’s gift and her predicament. Jesus notices the widow’s offering perhaps because it is his story too. Hounded, harassed and eventually condemned by the local religious authorities, he too will freely choose to give over “all he has to live on,” his very life blood and his precious body, because love is more important. Love and giving from the heart, real generosity always have the quiet power to overthrow oppression.

We are reminded today that it’s never ever about the entitlement of a know-it-all Scribe, but always about compassion. The Gospel reveals to us a Jesus who sees with perfect clarity- names the pretensions, sees most clearly the unfairness, the injustice and above all notices the generosity of one who gives without counting the cost. Even now, our generosity, the little things we do no matter how unremarkable give him pleasure. Our task is to keep noticing with the compassionate merciful eyes of Christ, to have his compassionate mind in us, and so to get on our way to becoming compassion for one another.


Initial quotations from: Donohue & Harrington, Sacra Pagina: Mark, p. 365