In the Gospel of Mark (12:38-44), we might find the dire situations of the two widows simply unbelievable. Or, even worse, some of us might dismiss both of them as tales so far remote from the reality in which we are living that they become totally irrelevant. Well, a warning is in order, then.
My dear friends in Christ, we ought to give them our full and undivided attention because we are dealing here with God’s Word. And for those among us who might treat God’s Word as being just a mere notch above an ordinary article in their daily newspaper, I should point out that God’s Word is such that it created the whole world; it turns bread into the flesh of our God and wine into the blood of our Savior; it transforms wretched people into saints and performs mighty deeds. God’s Word penetrates also the remotest recesses of the heart and exposes everything to the light of day.
No, the only prudent and intelligent way is for us to place ourselves in the unlivable predicaments at the brink of total despair that both widows were experiencing. If we had been wasting away through prolonged rationing of dwindling resources; and now the plan were for us and our child to have one last meager meal before we starved to death, would we share it with an old prophet?
If we had our last two dollars on which to live until we die or a miracle happens, would we drop our two bucks into the Temple treasury?
The point that God’s Word intends to inculcate in our minds and hearts is not that we should be reckless and cancel our health insurance policy, our car insurance, our home insurance coverage and expect God to intervene with a miracle or two to fix our problems.
An attitude of that sort, accompanied by related behavior in our modern society would be a sign of total irresponsibility not only about the duty to care for our personal well-being but also for all those who depend on us for their security and protection.
Before we can appreciate fully the message that the Lord is trying to send us, we should probe our heart to make sure that our inner disposition and our conduct are in no way such that they create impossible, unlivable, desperate situations for the most vulnerable.
From cover to cover, the Bible identifies the most vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, injustices as orphans and widows. Back then there were no programs, no agencies, no initiatives, no safety nets at all for those on the lowest rung of the social ladder.
Before we can get to take to heart the core message taught by Jesus, we have to determine for sure that in our dealing with others we do not contribute, directly or indirectly, to their exploitation and desperate condition. After that, we have to examine our conscience to see if we might harbor inside some tendencies that, if not kept in check, might lead us to create modern-day “orphans and widows.”
The next step is the one of examining our habitual level of serenity/apprehension.
The two emotions are present in reversed proportion: the more serenity we enjoy, the lesser the amount of anxiety; and vice versa. This is crucial to determine accurately because, if we are habitually apprehensive and worried, we might be opting for the easy ways of the world to relieve anxiety and apprehension. We know them because the media and commercial worlds are pushing for these easy solutions forcefully, convincingly and relentlessly. Here are some of the most common ones: alcohol, speed, drugs, casual sex, binges of all kinds, shopping sprees, hoarding of money or of other things, pornography, and the list goes on and on.
Obviously, the easy ways of the world are in contraposition to what God’s Word of life proposes.
So, the first part of the message from the Lord Jesus is about the reason(s) why one chooses one or several of these easy ways vis-à-vis the unintended results. The reason is the one of relieving apprehension and anxiety or dissatisfaction, in order to create a state of pleasantness, but the end result is devastating and—at times, even deadly.
With the narratives of the two widows, the Lord applies the same reason of aiming at relieving anxiety and correcting an impossible situation, but he can assure the best result possible guaranteed by the Father himself.
As the Lord Jesus suggests, apprehension, anxiety, dejection and despair created by identifiable causes such as serious illnesses and/or devastating losses or by a general feeling of uneasiness and restlessness closing in from all sides are relieved by a continuous entrusting of oneself into the hands of our heavenly Father.
The homework that is needed if we accept Jesus’ message, then, is the one of thinking automatically, instinctively of our God as the Rock of our salvation in good times and in bad, and, eventually, also in desperate situations.
It is hard to determine the length of time that we will need, impulsively, as a second nature, to think of God and find serenity by abandoning ourselves with all our worries into his loving hands, rather than opting first for what is humanly available.
We should use reasonable and good human resources to correct bad situations, but, first, our trust must be placed on God.
Hence, there is no time to waste or dilly-dally.
Our loving Father desires intensely to relieve our pain and we should have learned and come to believe that he has the best recipe for genuine joy.
In the end, serenity, peace of mind and a general sense of well-being are achieved only when we do not give God good things or money or anything else we might deem worthy of him, but our very self, our mind, our heart, our soul, our whole being in complete, blind trust. That is the ultimate form of worship.