9th Week in Ord. Time, Saturday – 6th June 2020 — Gospel: Mk 12,38-44
Condemnation rather than commendation
After a positive encounter with one scribe (12,28-34), Jesus proceeds to discuss the behavioural practices of some scribes he had encountered (2,6.16; 3,22; 7,1.5; 11,18,27-28). His outburst against the scribal class offered a harsh critique of their pride (12,38-39). But the critique became more serious, as Jesus questioned their economic policies, devouring widows’ houses. Mark used the term “widow” only in these stories (12,40.42-43). Apparently, Mark wanted readers to see a connection between this activity and the “poor widow’s” offering. Jesus’ observation about the “poor widow”, who sacrificed her only economic resources she had left with, was a natural progression to the abuse of widows’ homes. Jesus’ public critique juxtaposed the ‘whole’ scribal class with a ‘single’ widow. She became an example in Jesus’ teaching: a positive object lesson and someone to be observed. She was unnamed and Jesus didn’t address her directly. In the context of earlier conflicts between Jesus and the temple leaders, this widow’s story was more likely a condemnation, rather than a commendation. The story highlighted the ways the “treasury” (of the scribes) consumed the means of the poor. Jesus did not criticize the Temple authorities directly here; rather he challenged the leadership to practice more just ways. Furthermore, his observation about this widow fit the pattern of several prophets who preceded Jesus favouring vulnerable people, like widows, orphans and immigrants (Jer 7,6; Mal 3,5).