And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the multitude putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came, and put in two copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him, and said to them, "Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For they all contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living." (Mk. 12:41-44)
Today's reading is one of those places in the Scripture that keeps expanding its meaning as you go in your walk with the Lord. Perhaps this is because few of us can easily grasp the nature of giving to the Lord, what pleases Him as opposed to what pleases me, what He needs as opposed to what I need. I often heard it and often said it - how we need to make Jesus the Lord of our life, to take up the cross daily... And I often thought I understood and yet that same understanding would evade me whenever I tried to keep things for myself - be it my sins or my posessions.
I often felt like the poor widow when I came to the Lord to pray. More often than not all I could bring were my own wandering thoughts (ranging from today's shopping list to what transport should I take from the airport six months from now) and my tiredness. Or else I would want to impress the Lord with the beautiful words I'd say and the good things I've done... His presence makes it difficult to hold on to these things, but in tiredness and doubt it is somehow easier to realise that I am indeed poor. All I have is myself and my time to give to the Lord. Everything else - all the good things - comes from Him. All the bad that I've ever done comes from myself.
Today, re-reading this Scripture, I thought whether I had preferred to contribute out of my abundance rather than out of my poverty. It was so easy to give from the things I was good at, to help with translations, to discuss the Scriptures, to give money when I had it, to say a kind word when I was in a good mood... The widow had nothing to give but a last penny, and yet Jesus was impressed because He saw to the heart. God is not impressed by the rich sacrifices, by gifts given to Him who is the giver of all gifts, but something else impressed Him - trust. And the total surrender of everything, even the embarassing, the insignificant, the poor. It seems that holiness is not about becoming perfect, but about refusing to have a will of one's own.
When I contributed out of my abundance, and might have slowly started cherishing the idea that the Lord would be impressed, did I bother to give the Lord my poverty? The poverty of my faults and sins and addictions?
Today, the contribution of poverty for me means giving up, offering up what I thought I could do myself. Giving up my right to be angry, my right to be offended, my right to retaliate, my right to run the show, my right to indulge in the drug of my choice - be it chocolate, nicotine, lust or gym - even in my sleep, giving up the right to be the lord of my life.
For I can, of course, choose to be that lord and hold on to little things and try to maintain control even by doing the kindest and seemingly most selfless of acts. But I think in today's reading Jesus says He is not the least bit impressed. He would never be able to grant the freedom to those who hold on to their selves, - He wants the last penny. All of it. To let go - and let God.
Thy will, not mine, be done.