- Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17
- Psalm 127
- Hebrews 9:24-28
- Mark 12:38-44
The themes of the season of Advent begin to be expressed this week, offering an opportunity to explore the rich heritage of Advent. We focus on the coming of Christ in glory and on the last judgment.
Today’s readings include the stories of two women – Ruth and the unnamed widow – who provide us with examples of faith and discipleship. In the Old Testament lesson, Ruth, a Moabite woman, has left her homeland to follow her Israelite mother-in-law, Naomi, back to Judah. A model of fidelity and love, Ruth’s devotion to Naomi reminds us of God’s dedication to the people of Israel.
Ruth again appears in the Gospels of Matthew (1:5) and Luke (3:32) as her child, Obed, is the grandfather of King David, thus beginning the genealogies of Jesus in these two gospels. The beautiful story of Ruth shows how God works in surprising ways through the lives of often unlikely people.
Ruth sacrificed her home and family of origin in following Naomi to a new land. In today’s Gospel, we hear of the truly sacrificial giving of a poor widow. Without a husband to represent and support her, she is an evocative symbol of all the oppressed whom the privileged religious class (the Scribes) can easily exploit. She draws no attention to herself, sacrificing all that she has out of honor for God.
Jesus observes the well-dressed rich as they drop gold coins into the temple treasury. Yet what they give cost them virtually nothing; there was plenty more available to them. In contrast, Jesus notices this unnamed and probably destitute widow. She gives two small copper coins – roughly the equivalent to one sixty-fourth of the contemporary daily wage. Jesus realized that her giving was more than sacrificial – it was a high risk. “But she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (v. 44b). Gifts are not measured by the results they achieve but by the motivation of the giver. For both widows, their actions exemplified faith in the highest degree.
The offertory at the Eucharist expresses this theme of self-offering. “And here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, our selves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto thee” (BCP 336). We can be reminded that these humble, faith-filled acts on the part of both widows, living hundreds of years apart can teach us that the giving of things, without the giving of self, is of little value in the sight of God.
- What are the similarities between both of the widows in today’s readings? What do you think is the motivation behind each of their actions?
- Make a list of the qualities demonstrated by the poor widow. What do you think she values most in life? How can you become more like her?
- Why do you think Jesus sat and watched the crowd putting money in the treasury (Mark 12:41)? What do you imagine he might have been thinking at this point? Why do you think he specifically called his disciples’ attention to the widow?
- How do you think the widow herself felt as she put her two coins into the treasury? How are we challenged by her actions here? What is the contrast that Jesus makes here between the actions of the widow and the rich people who were putting money into the treasury?
- How can we truly honor God with our substance and become faithful stewards?
- As you reflect on today’s readings, what further insights do you have about stewardship in its fullest sense?