What are the distinguishing marks of the children of God and heirs of eternal life? Today’s Gospel reading addresses the matter in a compelling and vivid manner. Jesus is in the Temple. His location is significant. The Temple was the focus of Jewish devotion both in the homeland and wherever communities of Jews lived, in the Roman Empire and beyond. Herod the Great rebuilt it to bolster his questionable claim to be the legitimate Jewish King of the Jews. It was designed, in its grandeur, to inspire awe, even if the visible sign of God’s presence hovering over the Holy of Holies was no longer visible.
|First reading and psalm
Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17 • Ps. 127
1 Kgs. 17:8-16 • Ps. 146
Heb. 9:24-28 • Mark 12:38-44
Among the notables who frequented the Temple were the scribes, the interpreters of the Jewish law and thus its sacred books and Scriptures. In an age when not everyone could read, they played a vital role. Yet Jesus warns his followers about them. “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers.” These people used religion as a means to gain fame and position, and as a pretext to defraud the powerless.
To drive home his point Jesus points to a group lining up to give alms, among whom is a widow who has nothing left except for the smallest coin, the proverbial widow’s mite. She alone gives her all freely, not to gain attention or assume power, but out of her heart.
The writer to the Hebrews, in today’s Propers, identifies Jesus with the Temple. He is the building inspiring awe and devotion, not just where we live, but wherever Christians live. He is our true and legitimate King. Inhabiting the Jesus Temple are those, proficient in our holy books, entrusted by the Church to transmit the faith faithfully. Indeed every baptized Christian has that duty and responsibility. It is easy to use our status as children of God and heirs of eternal life to judge and belittle others. From Simon Magus, who sought to purchase the gift of the Spirit from St. Peter, to some modern TV evangelists, there’s an unbroken unapostolic succession of people who seek to advance themselves or defraud the less fortunate or who use their learning to undermine simple faith. If we are to be counted as children of God and dwell forever in the temple that is Jesus, we must seek to emulate the widow who gave her all from love and devotion.
O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Look It Up
Read Acts 8:9-24.
Think About It
Pray about these words from the Rite I Eucharist: “And here we offer and present unto thee O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies.”