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." -Mark 12:41-44
The story of the widow’s mite bothered me as a child. I didn’t want the woman giving all of her money to the temple, which I’d somehow gleaned was corrupt. Shouldn’t she use her pennies toward food or warm clothing? But I also understood that she probably thought she was giving her money directly to God. And, I knew that Jesus admired her fearless trust. (Eventually, you have to learn to trust the Storyteller.)
The quotes this week draw the reader toward a consideration of trust in Divine Providence, as if you were a traveler in the dark surrendering to the wisdom of a skilled guide (Meditation One). Surrender to God can be compared to the safety of a drunken man whose bones won’t break when he falls from a cart because he’s limp from lack of consciousness (Meditation Two). But actively caring for the widow and orphan is a basic requirement of righteous living (Meditation Three).
Meditation One (Introit)
giving yourself to the guide
When you are conducted by a guide who takes you through an unknown country at night across fields where there are no tracks, by his own skill, without asking advice from anyone, or giving you any inkling of his plans; how can you choose but abandon yourself? Of what use is it looking about to find out where you are, to ask the passers-by, or to consult maps and travelers? The plans or fancies of a guide who insists on being trusted would not allow of this. He would take pleasure in overcoming the anxiety and distrust of the soul, and would insist on an entire surrender to his guidance. If one is convinced that he is a good guide one must have faith in him, and abandon oneself to his care.
… If you would live according to the Gospel, abandon yourself simply and entirely to the action of God.
… The life of each saint is the life of Jesus Christ; it is a new gospel.
- Jean-Pierre de Caussade 1675- 1751 Abandonment to Divine Providence (The Sacrament of the Present Moment)
Plaque With View Inside a Gothic Church, Unknown Dutch Potter, 1662
... But I must let go of everything. I must let go of everything but God. But God--May it not be That God is in all the things to which I cling? That may be the hidden reason for my clinging. It is all very puzzling indeed. When I say "I must let go of everything but God" What is my meaning? I must relax my hold on everything that dulls my sense of Him, That comes between me and the inner awareness of His Presence Pervading my life and glorifying All the common ways with wonderful wonder. "Teach me, O God, how to free myself of dearest possessions, So that in my trust I shall find restored to me All I need to walk in Thy path and to fulfill Thy will. Let me know Thee for myself that I may not be satisfied With aught that is less."
-Howard Thurman 1899-1981 Deep Is the Hunger
Plaque With View Inside Gothic Church, Unknown Dutch Potter, 1662, notice woman putting offering into box
Meditation Two (Insight)
like a drunk in the present moment
A drunken man who falls out of a cart, though he may suffer, does not die. His bones are the same as other people’s; but he meets his accident in a different way. His spirit is in a condition of security. He is not conscious of riding in the cart; neither is he conscious of falling out of it. Ideas of life, death, fear and the like cannot penetrate his breast; and so he does not suffer from contact with objective existence. If such security is to be got from wine, how much more is it to be got from God?
Chuang Tzu (Zhuangzi) 4th century BCE
Meditation Three (Integration) plead for the widow
Wash youselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.
The Last Word
With the confidence of a son, rest in the care and love that divine Providence has for you in all your needs.Look upon Providence as a child does its mother who loves him tenderly.You can be sure that God loves you incomparably more.
-Jane Frances de Chantal1572-1641
When the heart weeps for what it has lost, the spirit laughs for what it has found.
It's too easy to get angry with the widow for giving her money to the Temple. But I get angry anyway. The Temple was a big enterprise, and corrupt at the time of Jesus. Surely she knew this. What did those pennies matter to the Temple?
And where do those pennies come from anyway? Does someone give them to her so that she might take care of herself, however temporarily? Do the pennies come from similarly struggling relatives or neighbors who can't afford to add the concern for her health, her food, her shelter to their own impoverishment?
Or, does she find the pennies? Were they alms? If so, maybe she reasons that God gave her the pennies. So, in her holy-fool sense of irony, she gives God the pennies in order to let God know she knows God gave them to her. “Here, take these ! I found you out! These are yours!” The pennies are love-tokens.
The old widow trusts in God. The old widow loves God. Jesus, a holy fool himself, understands this foolish love. In the economy of the sacred this love is reckoned to her as righteousness.
Real simplicity lies in a juste milieu equally free from thoughtlessness and affectation, in which the soul is not overwhelmed by externals, so as to be unable to reflect, nor yet given up to the endless refinements, which self-consciousness induces. That soul which looks where it is going without losing time arguing over every step, or looking back perpetually, possesses true simplicity. Such simplicity is indeed a great treasure. How shall we attain to it? I would give all I possess for it; it is the costly pearl of Holy Scripture.
Francois Fenelon 1651-1715
As long as I am this or that, or have this or that, I am not all things and I have not all things. Become pure till you neither are nor have either this or that; then you are omnipresent and, being neither this nor that, are all things.