On Veterans’ Day, or Remembrance Day, we remember the supreme sacrifice of those who have died for their country. They put in everything. All too often, veterans who have risked everything still need our support and assistance.
Joe Biden recently declined to run for president. In his speech, he said that to do that, one would have to be ready to put in everything to the race, which he could not have done at the moment due to the loss of his son. Putting in everything is key to our relationships, to raising children, to succeeding in our work, and to serving our country and God.
In our Gospel reading (Mk 12v38-44), we find the story of the ‘widow’s mite’. On the one hand Jesus seems to commend this widow (like the widow of Zarephath in 1 Kings 17:8-16) for putting in everything in seeking to honor the call of God.
On the other hand, the response of Jesus is a lament and an attack (Mk 12:40) regarding any social arrangement that “devours widows houses” and contributes to the rich, or to religious buildings. Notably, today’s Gospel passage is followed by the disciples’ admiration of the huge temple buildings (Mk 13:1-2). But Jesus disagrees with them. Jesus dismissed the disciples’ views and those buildings that the disciples admired as a massive irrelevance which would soon (30 years later) be completely destroyed.
God cares for the poor. Like Egypt in the time of Moses, human empires that defy God’s purposes are futile and doomed. Throughout history, we have had to learn again and again to stop being fearful, greedy, and selfish, and to trust God wholeheartedly – learn it again each hour, each day, each week, and each generation.
Long before, God asked Cain and still asks us, “Where are your brother and sister?” In God’s perspective, we are to care for our neighbors, and care for the creation.
Again, in the years after Jesus gave us the words of today’s Gospel reading, by the fourth century of the modern era, for centuries, Christians had suffered severe persecution under the (pagan) Roman emperors. By the 4th Century, however, there were a series of Christian emperors. At that time, Priscillian opposed elements of orthodox Christianity in Spain. In 385, the now Christian emperor Maximus proceeded to condemn Priscillian to death for his beliefs. So Christians were starting to persecute others. At the time, Bishop Martin of Tours (in France) bravely and vigorously protested against such oppression being carried out in the name of Christ. Martin became an early testimony to those unpopular and few who stand up against political power.
Later on in history there was other Martin that we commemorated on 4th Nov this last week — Martin de Porres, a lay person and a monk. This Martin died in 1639 in South America. As a lay brother at Lima in Peru, Martin de Porres did not build empires. By contrast, he was engaged mainly in the humbler domestic tasks and the service of the sick and poor. Like St Francis 400 years before him, Martin de Porres was unusual for his time in his concern for animals, and creation. Martin saw all people and all things, however poor, or however ‘insignificant’, as filled with divine being and beauty. In such very small things, Martin is remembered for serving God’s cause–care for our neighbour and for creation, which is the only cause that will endure.
The need to learn to put in everything into our trust in God emerged again, elsewhere: England up to the time of Wilberforce and Dickens had a history of Christianity for 1700 years, and had a history of the Reformation for over 200 years. Despite that, yet the country had sunk into the moral horror of the officially sanctioned slave trade. Workers there—including children—had to work hard for long hours, and be grateful for a pittance, while the profits and real benefits went to owners who lived in luxury on little effort. The industrial revolution was destroying nature.
We ourselves have not moved ahead of that yet – for we have record levels of 60 million refugees (half of them children), earth-killing carbon emissions, and a vast disparity of wealth.
Michael Curry recently spoke on the phrase, “Don’t worry, be happy,” which is the title of a song by Bobby McFerrin and Bob Marley. Curry’s inspiring reflection on that phrase was to call us to not worry about holding on to physical things and safety. Not to worry, but rather, to open our hearts and purses to care for those who are suffering—especially, those of other ethnicities, refugees, and the planet earth. Then, we can be happy in trusting wholeheartedly in God. We will find, just like the widow of Zarephath in our first reading (1 Kings 17:8-16), that the jar of meal and the jug of oil which is generously shared with others, will never fail to feed us also.
Let’s pray: God our father, your Son came in love to deliver us, and to equip us for eternal life: open our hearts to put in everything to trust you wholeheartedly; free us from the love of material things and from all that hinders us from running the race you have set before us. Amen.