Engaging the Gospel – Mark 12:38-44

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – Mark 12:38-44

The widow’s mite

Unlike the self-serving scribes, who are more interested in prestige and human respect, the poor widow in this Gospel has a self-giving attitude: she wants to contribute what she can, however small, to the Temple treasury.

The Gospel harmonizes with today’s first reading from 1 Kings, highlighting another poor widow who exhibits radical trust in God: the widow of Zarephath is down to her last bit of flour, but still feeds the prophet Elijah from it. She puts her in faith in his word that they will not be lacking, and God does indeed provide.

Jesus commends the poor widow for her offering, given in a similar spirit of reliance on the Lord, despite her poverty. She exemplifies generosity, as well as the moral virtue of justice, “the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. Justice toward God is called the ‘virtue of religion’” (Catechism paragraph 1807), whereby love “leads us to render to God what we as creatures owe Him in all justice” (2095).

In keeping with our obligation to give God and neighbor their due, “the faithful also have the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his abilities” (2043). “From the very beginning, Christians have brought, along with the bread and wine for the Eucharist, gifts to share with those in need” (1351).

Question for reflection: When have I made a financial sacrifice out of love for God?

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Virtues

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 1803-45:

  • Virtue, the “habitual and firm disposition to do the good,” has been classified into two types: human virtues, which we acquire by our own effort, and theological virtues, which are infused by God.
  • Of the human virtues, four are particularly important – prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude; these four are called the cardinal virtues, from the Latin cardo for “hinge,” because the other human virtues revolve around them.
  • Prudence is not political slipperiness or diplomatic discretion; rather, prudence directs the use of our reason so that we know the right thing to do, and how to accomplish it in the right way; thus dubbed the “charioteer of virtues,” it plays an invaluable role in the working of our conscience.
  • Justice is the constant, unswerving determination to give what is due to both God and neighbor; this justice toward God is known as the “virtue of religion,” while justice toward neighbor safeguards human rights and advances the common good.
  • Fortitude, or courage, instills in us the resolve to pursue the good despite difficulties or adversity; this virtue helps us to fight temptation, endure trials, and rise above our fear, to the point of suffering death for a just cause.
  • Temperance enables us to achieve the right balance in how we use or consume things; with our desires kept to an appropriate level, we will not overindulge our appetites for the goods of this life.
  • The theological virtues – faith, hope, and charity – are so called because they are irrevocably bound up in our relationship with God; as the underpinning of the Christian moral life, they also sustain our human virtues.
  • By the theological virtue of faith, we believe in God, and all of His revelation, and the teaching of the Church, because God is Truth; this is not simply a passive acquiescence, but involves a bold dedication to witness to the faith.
  • Hope is not a wishful optimism, or irrational naivete; instead, it is through this theological virtue that we desire heaven, and trust God – not ourselves – to bring us to eternal life by His grace, according to Christ’s promises.
  • Charity is not merely being nice: it means that we love God above everything else, and for love of Him, we love our neighbor; because this is the ultimate point of our existence, both now and for all time, Jesus made charity the new commandment, and it ranks as the greatest of all the virtues.

Live Your Faith

Our culture often scoffs at the idea of virtue, mocking it as hokey, and the opposite of all things hip and cool.

But that is a failure to grasp what virtue really is: virtue has its basis, both linguistically and philosophically, in the idea of excellence.

If we prize excellence in such fields as sports and entertainment, and hail the best performers as superstars, shouldn’t we also prize excellence in the art of living?

Virtuous people are the superstars of moral living. And unlike the ultra-competitive worlds of sports and entertainment, where only a few can make it, every one of us is called to be a superstar of moral living.