Readings: 1 Kings 17:10-16; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44
Jesus sat opposite the treasury and observed…
I believe this is so characteristic of Jesus, who told us Behold the birds of the air, or Behold the flowers of the field. The more I ponder the Gospels, the more I feel that Jesus is someone who paid attention, who noticed things and how they connected, inside as well as without. He knew the evils that arise from a human heart, for example, and that evil does not just threaten from without. The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness admit that he himself was tempted by his appetites, by ownership and power. That’s not the way he lived but I’m sure he could choose what was very different from his desires because he did not deny they were there. He accepted and worked with them, neither rationalizing nor defending them.
Today Jesus observes that there is a woman who is poor, without a husband and gives what little she has. He points out this poor widow. To be a widow is to become known as what you are not: she’s no longer married. She is what death has taken away from her. She has no title, no property, no positive status–she’s just herself, but a self stripped of previous identity.
This is why what she gives–her whole living–is so precious. Proportionately it’s everything, yet she doesn’t hold back. Spiritually she’s offering God something inestimable: the unadulterated creature she is on her own.
There is an old treatise on prayer called The Book of Privy Counseling. The text teaches: in this contemplative work think of your self and of [God] in the same way: that is, with the simple awareness that he is as he is, and that you are as you are. In this way your thought will not be fragmented or scattered, but unified in him who is all.
Couldn’t observing the world around me take me out of myself and who I pretend I am? Why can’t my self-giving be stripped of labels, defensiveness, cleansed of self-justification or self-consciousness?
I gratefully acknowledge my indebtedness to Rev. Alexander MacPhail, Rector of Christ Episcopal Church, Roanoke, for insight into The Book of Privy Counseling