Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, 7th November

Mark 12:38–44

As Jesus taught, he said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’

He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.’


There are two things happening in today’s gospel. The first is Jesus warns people to beware of the hypocrisy of the Scribes and not to imitate them. The second is the widow who offers very little money but is seen by Jesus as more generous than the large donation of the rich.

In the first episode, Jesus condemned those Scribes for their exaggeration of their own importance by dressing, walking, and sitting. Jesus noted that the purpose of all their behaviours and manners was only to make a mockery of the religion they professed to live. In their hearts, they wished to command people’s reverence to them wherever they went among people. They might fool their fellow-Jews but they could not fool God.

In their behaviours and manners, pride was the predominant vice of the Scribes. Pride is the vice caused the fall of angels and of mankind. It so governed their lives that even their best actions were vitiated by it. There is a strong inclination to pride in every one of us. It is because that we have great gifts from God and great capabilities, but we are tempted to claim the credit for these gifts and capabilities for ourselves, whereas we owe them all to God’s generosity.

A Christian is a follower of Christ whose humility can never be equaled. He was God as well as man. While on earth he empties himself of his divine glory so that he could be like one of us. A follower of Christ should not try to make display of gifts which are not his own, nor try to exalt himself above his neighbour because of something he has which was given to his neighbour. Love of neighbour is the second of the two commandments and there can be no true love of neighbour where there is pride.

The second episode in today’s gospel highlights true humility and true charity. The poor widow forgot of herself and her own needs. She gave her all, her last penny to help others who were in need. She made this sacrifice without publicity and fanfare or seeking the praise of her neighbouts.

It is this strong contrast between her outlook on life and on religion and that of the Scribes in the first episode that connects these two episodes. While the Scribes sought to earn the respect and praise of their neighbours, this poor widow’s religion was practiced in secret and it was to God alone that she looked for any reward that He might deign to give her.

Thus, Jesus warns his followers not to look for the praise and esteem of their neighbours when doing their good work. They should rather to hope for God’s praise and esteem in the future world.

Both episodes of today’s gospel remind us that if we are sincerely practicing our religion, we must be ever-ready to help a neighbour in need even if this cuts into our hard-earned reserves because Christ gave his very life for us and has asked us to do likewise, if necessary. The greater the sacrifice, the greater the reward. Amen.