November 7, 2021
XXXII Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B
The passage from today’s Gospel (Mk 12: 38-44) has the temple as its background, where Jesus is found teaching. Here He met various groups of people and with them entered into dialogue, a dialogue that at times was transformed into a diatribe.
We are at the end of chapter twelve; chapter thirteen deals with the eschatological discourse, and the story of the Passion begins with chapter fourteen.
The picture that we see today in our passage is, therefore, a conclusive picture, the last image that Jesus leaves us in his teaching, and this is why it is particularly important.
Actually, there are two images, in two juxtaposed paintings.
The first (Mk 12:38-40) is occupied by characters who need a lot of space, with their self-centered attitudes: everything in them is aimed at being noticed and admired, so they seek a lot of visibility.
The second character is a poor widow, who does not occupy space and nobody sees, except Jesus (Mk 12:41-44).
In what are these two characters different?
A key to reading comes to us from the place where the scene takes place: the temple, in fact, is the place par excellence where one meets God, where a person rises to see Him.
Well, the scribes do not actually see anyone, because theyre too busy wanting to be seen. Everything they do, even their religious works, do not take them beyond themselves. In the Gospel of Mark, they are the picture of the anti-disciple par excellence. On the contrary, the widow sees, and she sees only one thing. Her gaze on God is so real, so concrete, that she entrusts everything she has, all her life to Him.
She does it with such a strong gesture that seems absurd, for at least two reasons.
Why give everything and be left without the means with which to live? Can God ask this? And why do it in the temple and for the temple, considering that exactly two verses later Jesus will say of that same temple “not one stone here will be left upon another”(Mk 13:2)?
So, doesn’t this woman, already poor, become even poorer if she gives everything?
Actually, no. By giving everything, this woman becomes rich. Because if one loves, and gives everything for the other, in the moment she gives it, she does not feel impoverished at all. On the contrary, she feels enriched by that relationship in which she has gambled all of herself, and rediscovers herself fully in the gift she has made. It is what we give that makes us rich.
And this is something that does not end, that does not pass away. The temple passes, which will be destroyed; but the relationship, in which the woman has put all her love, remains a true relationship because there is no real relationship if you do not gamble your whole life, like the woman.
The scribes, in their relationship with God, gamble only the appearance, the woman the whole substance.
It is simply Gospel logic, which only those who lose their life find it entirely. A logic that the Gospel of Mark, step by step, has accompanied us in knowing, and that now, a few moments from the Passion, Jesus himself sees incarnated in a poor widow woman.
And her presence indicates the stroke of the hour and invites Jesus to enter with confidence in this mystery of death because everything that He will lose out of love will be fully rediscovered.
And this unlike the scribes: whoever puts his gain in being admired, as the temple, will end up desolate, useless and lifeless.
Finally, we ask ourselves: what has this woman seen to make this gesture?
I think we can say that she saw the essential thing about God, that is, she saw that God is the gift of self, to the bitter end: an infinite gift of self, losing, free, without calculations. So the only way to meet Him is to give oneself to Him, offering oneself, getting lost in Him. That is the only exchange allowed in the temple, the only one by which the temple makes sense in its existence and which will be fulfilled fully in the new temple, that is, in the body of the Lord given to everyone.
There is a game of gazes in today’s Gospel: Jesus invites us to look out for those (Mk 12:38) who seek our gaze; and, on the contrary, to look (Mk 12:41,43) at those who do not seek anything but the gaze of God, because these are the true teachers who teach the way of life.
And we must have new and healed eyes, like those of Bartimaeus (Mk 10:46-52), otherwise our eyes, sick by selfishness, risk not seeing and understanding the logic of love, and judging them absurd according to our human criteria.