The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for the home
November 11, 2018 – 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 10:38-44
Today, Jesus offers us a lesson in economics and “the cost of living.” It contains a powerful and important message. Let’s “follow the money,” as is sometimes said today.
We’ll begin here with a thought about how we calculate the cost or value of anything. According to today’s gospel about “the poor widow,” there are two ways to think about money.
First, there is what we might call “objective accounting.” That’s simply a matter of dollars and cents. It’s the “sticker price” of anything or what’s noted on the price tag. This also refers to the amount that people have in their bank accounts. Or retirement savings. When the ten richest people in the world are listed, someone adds up their assets from the land they own, the gold in their vaults, the current market value of their stocks and bonds, and so forth. A figure is arrived at which shows their “net worth.”
The second kind of economic calculation is more personal, more subjective. To more fully appreciate the message of Jesus here, it’s helpful to know a little about the place of money in the Near East culture when Jesus lived there two-thousand years ago.
First, it was unusual for women to have any money. Men were in charge of most everything, including the family’s wealth. It would be unusual for women to own property or even have money in their own name. Women couldn’t vote or hold public office. The woman in the gospel story was a widow which meant she was “on her own.” She lost the economic support of her husband when he died. So, she was poor in two ways. She had no husband to support her and she was a woman. In our language, she had two strikes against her.
Jesus said that she contributed to the Temple’s treasure “two small coins.” Hardly anything, in the objective order described above. But Jesus adds that those coins were all the money she had. She gave it all to God. From God’s perspective, her gift was immeasurable. Could any of us do that?
Jesus invites us to a new kind of freedom and we can add that it does not equate with the values of our world. Many commercials from financial institutions promise freedom and happiness when you have enough money. How much? Probably, never enough, from their perspective. Jesus invites his followers, however, to a deeper kind of freedom and happiness. How much will that cost? Ask “the poor widow.”
©David M. Thomas, PhD