Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson
Imbalance creation is one of the several items in the devil’s “toolbox for turmoil.” He knows it creates havoc and division, which are his forte and delight. This twin terror usually threatens our trust in God, who is Satan’s leading enemy.
Such imbalance affects our physical selves as well as our spiritual lives. Our moral perspective goes askew because of it. And even our relationships with others, who are always to be regarded, according to Jesus, as our brothers and sisters can hit rough spots.
The combined Scripture Readings this weekend compel us to note the economic imbalance that exists among citizens of the world. The Gospel in particular points out that Jesus noticed this, which means God did as well, and obviously still does. He understands its effects in the wrong we often do to ourselves and others.
The two main Readings, which always complement each other in our Liturgies, feature widows. In biblical times, these women were, in our popular phraseology, “at the bottom of the food chain.” Being female and bereft of specific male protection left them particularly vulnerable in a patriarchal society. They are always held to be worthy of special love and care by godly people.
The imbalance between rich and poor was most likely not something new in the lives of Our Lord and His contemporaries. It certainly is quite apparent in these days. Note that both of the widows we read about today are unnamed, so they rightly represent The obedient widow of Zarephath. But she did as Elijah commanded and was rewarded for her goodness. The other widow who caught Jesus’ eye that long ago day outdid the scribes in authentic generosity. They are a worthy pair.
I believe that where we fit in to these stories happens when we join the disciples Jesus called together for a conference. So imagine yourself being there within range of the Voice we hope one day to hear for ourselves. Would you have been surprised to hear Jesus pronounce that “this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors”? Of course with twenty plus centuries of prayer and preaching we know the facts.
Yes, you could claim that here Jesus is giving us a “pinch in the purse” or a “wallop to our wallet.” But I propose that He is really asking us to be balanced people, generous with our hearts, persistent in our loyalty to Him, and our willingness to be as loving as a certain art teacher named Mrs. Abate that I found out about, as reported by her onetime pupil.
In the first grade, Miss Grant said that my purple tepee wasn’t realistic enough, that purple was no color at all for a tent, that purple was the color of people when they died, and that my drawing wasn’t good enough to hang with the others. I walked back to my seat, head bowed. With a black crayon, I brought nightfall to my purple tent in the middle of the afternoon.
In the second grade, Mrs. Abate said, “Draw anything.” She didn’t care what. I left my paper blank, and when she came around to my desk, my heart beat like a tom-tom. She touched my head with her small hand and in a soft voice said, “The snowfall. How clean and white and beautiful.”