Following the Desperate Widow

November 7, 2021; Mark 12:38-44; 32rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s gospel is not for everyone. It is for those of us who are desperate, those of us who are hanging by a thread, those of us who are not sure that we have the resources to maintain our hope and our joy. The widow in the gospel is desperate. She has no family, no means of support, no security for the future. All she has is two small coins that are not enough for life. The gospel tells us two things about this widow. First, she gives the two small coins, all that she has, away. And second, that Jesus sees what she does and loves her for it.

You and I are probably not desperate in the sense that the widow in the gospel is desperate. We live in comfortable homes. We do not worry about whether we will eat tomorrow. But for some of us, there may be a situation in our life in which we are hanging by a thread, an area in which we are desperate. If this is the case, then today’s gospel asks us to imitate the widow, to give away the little that we have even though it is likely that it will not be enough to make a difference.

Your grandson, whom you love, has become addicted to narcotics. The same grandson who year after year would come and help you bake Christmas cookies. The same grandson who would regale you with his exploits on the football field. Now he is coming apart. His life is going down the tubes, and you do not have the means to save him. You are desperate. All you have is your love. Today’s gospel asks you to find a way to show that love, however small, to send your grandson a text that you are thinking of him, even though it is very likely that text will not be able to turn him around. Your marriage is in peril and you are not sure how you got there. It seems that only a couple of years ago there was more than enough love between you and your spouse. Now even carrying on a conversation is an ordeal, and you cannot remember the last time that the two of you connected in any meaningful way. You are desperate. There is the possibility of counseling, but when you look at the distance between the two of you, that seems all too little. Today’s gospel invites you to give yourself to counseling even though the chances of success seem out of reach. You cannot remember the last time you felt well. Ever since the diagnosis of cancer your life has been a series of tests and treatments and more tests. Your days are filled with present pain and fear for the future. You are desperate for a break. Desperate to again be normal. But all you have is the choice of your own attitude and the love for the people around you. Today’s gospel invites you to love those who support you and to somehow take up a positive attitude, to find a smile, even though that smile is not going to defeat your cancer.

When we are desperate, Jesus asks us to follow the example of the widow and to give away the little that we have even though it is unlikely that that will be enough to make a difference. The gospel does not promise that your text is will turn your grandson around, that counseling will save your marriage, or that a smile will eliminate your cancer. But it does promise us this. If we follow the example of the widow and give the little that we have away, Jesus will see what we do, and he will love us for it. And that is no small matter. Because when Jesus sees us, hope is always possible. When God loves us, anything can happen.