The scribe and the widow within me

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BY SR HILDEGARD RYAN OSB

Sunday, November 11th,  2012 is the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.

Lectio:  Read the Gospel from Mark 12:38-44.

Meditatio:  Some background to the text, so that we understand its meaning.  As in the first reading, so here, a widow is the central character.  In the Sacred Scriptures (Old and New Testaments), widows symbolise those for whom no one provides.  A good Old Testament King was assessed according to his care for widows and orphans.  On a more scholarly note, the New Jerome Biblical Commentary informs one that this text, 12:38-44 relates two incidents

The first is 38-40 and  41-44. The two incidents form a diptych in which characters are contrasted.

Scribes:  ostentatious and hypocritical.  They are the opposite of what Jesus expects from his disciples.

Jesus warns against the scribes’ search for honour and prestige (38b-39), and their draining the resources of widows, while keeping up the pretense of piety (12:46).

The scribes were the interpreters of Old Testament Law. Then the story of the poor widow is connected to the first story by means of the word “widow”

She provides a stark contrast to the conduct of the Scribes. The woman’s inner dedication and generosity also serve to introduce the Passion narrative in which Jesus will show those same qualities.  The widow made the real sacrifice.  The rich gave out of their surplus.  (cf.  NJBC  41:81 & 82).

Spend quiet time with this  text.  Go to a remote corner of the garden or a  seat by the sea. Visit a quiet corner of a Church which is open for prayer. Hear the words:  BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD.  Allow the Holy Spirit to play on the fibres of your heart like a harpist in order to bring forth the most beautiful melody of your response to God.

I share my response in Evangelizatio No. 3.

Evangelizatio is my LIVED RESPONSE to the sacred scriptures given to me each week by the Church for my formation as a Christian.  If I don’t respond, they are merely texts on a page.  When I do respond, they are my life.

There are two models for me in this Gospel story.  There is the Scribe and there is the Widow.  I know that there is both Scribe and Widow within me.  According to the choices I make in daily life, either the Scribe or the Widow triumphs. 

A definition of a Scribe could be:  “What he likes he calls holy.”  There is something of this in me and I would suspect, in all of us.  What I like goes.  What I like I make holy and THE LAW!  And then there is the widow who gives all.  The widow doesn’t throw the law book at others.  The widow is humble, always aware that she may have just enough bread for today.

She has no need of pretense, because she is one of God’s lowly ones.  She is not a hypocrite and not ostentatious.  She is just her “real” self. She is dependent on God.  She is characterised by inner dedication and generosity. Most importantly of all, the Widow knows who she is!  The Scribe doesn’t know who he is, - too busy keeping up appearances!   I believe that at different stages of our lives, either the Scribe or the Widow triumphs.

— Sr Hildegard Ryan OSB, Jamberoo Abbey

(Lectio Divina is Holy Reading, that is, reading of the Sacred Scriptures.  It is a way of life, not a method of prayer.  It is about reading (and listening), reflecting, praying in tune with the Holy Spirit within me, resting in God, responding in the way I live, and continually pondering on the Scriptures).  

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