We are approaching the end of our reading of the gospel of Mark. Today’s reading provides a contrast: the self-assured scribes parading their virtue, and the humble widow offering all she had to live on. Jesus attacks the hypocrisy of those religious people who make an outward show of virtue, but whose hearts are full of greed. His words against such behavior are harsh: they will receive a severe sentence. Such texts as this are sometimes used as a pretext for a general denigration of all the teachers of Judaism. We must bear in mind that the gospels also tell us of good and virtuous scribes and Pharisees.
Jesus observes the generosity of the poor widow. Unlike the scribes he has previously criticized, she does not trumpet her virtue. Almost unnoticed, she gives all she can for the upkeep of the temple of God. Jesus then ‘called the disciples and said to them’. In this way the evangelist underlines this teaching of Jesus.
Our first reading, from the first Book of Kings, portrays another widow, the widow of Sidon who is suffering from a punishing famine. Like the widow in the gospel, she shows remarkable generosity and trust in God. Though she does not have enough for herself and her son, she agrees to prepare something to eat for Elijah too, with remarkable consequences. Her example of faith is recalled by Jesus in chapter 4 of Luke’s gospel.