Lectionary: 1 Kings 17:8-16; Psalm 146; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44
Today’s short reading: people with generous amounts of money + a poor widow with almost no money = a teaching moment for Jesus.
Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins.
Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.’
– from Mark 12 (NLT)
Today, late morning, time will freeze in silent pause commemorating one hundred years since the historic armistice ending ‘the war to end wars’ in 1918.
The words ‘ultimate sacrifice’ will be repeated from coast to coast as Canadians remember those who braved evil and laid their lives on the line. Ultimate sacrifice has a meaning common to soldiers who die in military actions, who risk their existence with death, dismemberment, and permanent scars in order to protect the innocent or a way of life.
Ultimate sacrifice is also one way we describe the work of Jesus, beginning with his entrance into humanness and then eventually succumbing to the violence of that humanness.
One dictionary I referenced defined ultimate sacrifice simply as ‘to die’ which is nicely straight forward but I think we understand it with a bit more nuance. The Urban Dictionary was the definition I preferred, ‘To give everything you have to save someone or something that you hold most dear. Requires that you give yourself, in order to provide them sanctuary.’.
Ah, that’s better because, while this day is about soldiering, I’ve also seen people who bravely gave up their lives though they didn’t wear a helmet or carry a gun. Giving up one’s life can also have a broader meaning:
For police, firefighters;
For parents, especially single parents;
For volunteers and donors;
For those working for minimum wage to survive;
For those who assist the disabled;
For caregivers of the sick or elderly;
And what about the disabled, sick, elderly who, in their weakness find personal ways to give back with smiles, friendship, gratitude, blessings, wisdom, unconditional love?
I could go on.
With all respect to soldiers who bloodied the battlefields of history so others could live, let’s not forget the reluctant but heroic people who have always given their daily lives so others can live. At its core, ultimate sacrifice simply means choosing to do what is difficult but what is also right and good and godly.
In a world of trouble, thank God for those who oppose it with their all.
The scriptural widow gave everything – literally and figuratively. Compared to the wealth around her, this offering was small but her ultimate sacrifice is measured as large because it came out of a heart of passionate weakness.
What is a heart of passionate weakness?
(Read this and receive it as a blessing*.)
May you see with tender eyes
The wounds of those before you.
May you hear with well-tuned ears
The unspoken needs of those whose voices are muted.
May you hold with gentle hands
The bodies and the spirits of those you care for.
May the beauty of soul,
The strength of spirit,
The wholeness of being Lead you, inspire you
And let you know your own Beauty of soul,
Strength of spirit, Wholeness of being.
May you know that,
As you care for others,
God cares for you, sees you, Holds you tenderly.
* Catholic Health Association of the United States