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What Jesus Wants
Saturday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
In the course of his teaching Jesus said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.” He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, I know you are with me now, watching over me, glad that I am turning my attention to you in prayer. I offer this time to you, simply because you deserve my praise, and because I need your grace. Enlighten me, Lord, so that your Kingdom can grow in me and through me.
- Jesus Cares: In the Temple area the Jewish faithful could find large receptacles available to receive their monetary offerings to the Lord. Jesus “sat down opposite” these receptacles and “observed how the crowd put money into the treasury.” Jesus is truly interested in our lives, just as he shows his interest in these people who are coming to make their offerings to God in the Temple. Our lives matter to him. Our choices matter to him. He always has his eyes on us, not like a judge at the Olympics, looking for all the flaws in a performance, but like a father and a brother and a friend. His eyes, as he watches us, are filled with the light and warmth of love, with the eagerness of someone who believes in us and hopes that we will live our lives well. As we make our way through each day, as ordinary and mundane as each day may seem on the outside, Jesus is with us, attentively accompanying us and deeply caring about every encounter, every decision, every challenge, every triumph.
- Jesus Sees the Heart: Jesus looks into our hearts, hoping to find there what he found in this widow’s heart: unlimited trust in God. She “from her poverty, has contributed all she had.” This woman had no income of her own, had no livelihood. We can easily imagine her concern and preoccupation at being in such a precarious situation—women in Israel at the time of Jesus didn’t have a lot of employment options. We can imagine the uncertainty with which she had to face each new day, simply not knowing how she was going to survive, not knowing where the next meal was going to come from. How did she deal with this weight of worry and concern? She went to the Lord, and she put what little she had into his hands, trusting that he would faithfully care for her, that he would not abandon her. She radically and literally lived out the injunction from the Psalms: “Cast your care upon the Lord, who will give you support” (Psalms 55:23). The hardships of life had brought this widow into a deeper relationship with God, a deeper understanding of the basic truth that we so often forget: without God, we can do nothing (cf. John 15:5). The wealthier people who came to make their offerings to the Lord actually contributed less than the widow who only gave a couple of pennies, because “they have all contributed from their surplus wealth.” Jesus longs for us to lean on him, to let him be Our Lord. Anything–including wealth, success, and popularity–that inhibits us from doing that is a danger to our souls.
- St. Paul’s Warning and Advice: In today’s first reading, St. Paul exhorts Timothy to beware of just that kind of self-sufficiency. He points out how “the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth…” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). It’s so easy to be led astray by the tinsel and tinkling of this world’s attractions, whatever form they take. It’s so easy for us to prefer immediate satisfaction and distracting titillation to the long and often trying journey of faith. God must be first in our lives. The truth of Christ must be the compass that guides our hearts, minds, and decisions in all the ups and downs of mission as Christ’s disciples and ambassadors in this darkened, needy world. That is the only sure path to the deep interior peace and lasting fruitfulness we yearn for. And so, St. Paul’s encouragement to Timothy can also serve as his encouragement to us: “But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).
Conversing with Christ: When you sit and observe my daily life, Lord, what do you see? Is there anything that makes you sad? What makes you glad? You know that I want to follow you closely, to lean on you and find all my contentment and fulfillment in your friendship, your will, your presence. Am I trying to make my own happiness and giving you the leftovers, like the wealthy visitors to the Temple in today’s Gospel? Am I “casting all my cares” on you, like the widow? I want to become more like this widow. I want to give you all that I have, all that I am, all that I do. Touch my heart again with your grace, Lord, so that I can burn with the courageous fire of your love.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will pay special attention to the situations or moments when I feel frustrated, fearful, insecure, or worried. As soon as I detect any of those feelings, I will pause and turn my attention to God, recalling his promise to take care of those who depend on him. Then I will try to let his goodness calm my soul by making an act of trust in him, even if it is as simple as the prayer the Lord taught St. Faustina: “Jesus, I trust in you.”
For Further Reflection: The Widow’s “Might”, a Retreat Guide on Jesus’s encounter with the widow at the Temple treasury. As always, this Retreat Guide is available in audio, video, and textual formats.
Written by Fr. John Bartunek, LC