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.”
I guess that it goes without saying that nothing escapes God’s eye. This is both reassuring and at times troubling. Reassuring because knowing that God’s presence is all around us can be a source of strength and can settle us into a state of peace. It also is a sign of his love for us as he cares so much about each of us that he chooses to stay near. This closeness to God is called grace. Our response to it is what fuels our desire to be good. Responding to God’s grace is behind our charitable acts. Feeling God’s presence gives us the courage to offer forgiveness even when we don’t feel that it is merited.
However, this closeness to God and his watchful eye can also be troubling to us because we know that God will also witness those times when we fall short; when we intentionally choose the wrong path, for whatever the reason. Yup, God sees that too.
Today’s gospel gives us two images. The first, Jewish leaders who don long robes and recite long prayers in public so they can be noticed and judged righteous by the crowds. They assume places of honor and all the while they remain sinful.
The second image is that of an elderly widow who gives all that she had to the temple’s treasury. She does so without fanfare or spectacle.
Jesus witnesses both. Jesus comments on both. Jesus also knows what is in the hearts of both. And this is where being mindful of God’s watchful eye becomes important. I certainly can’t presume to know what was on the mind of the widow as she approached the treasury but I could venture a guess. She gave because of duty. She may have thought that as long as she was doing God’s will by tithing, God would not abandon her. The presence of God and her closeness to it, created a response that was good and admirable. Clearly, this presence of God is dismissed by the hypocritical scribes.
Our calling is to live our lives knowing that we are walking alongside Jesus. Keeping that frame of mind and surrendering to it means that we are always aware of God’s grace. Great things happen when we live our lives this way.