Reflection on Luke 21:1-4
Just four verses but there is a whole world hidden in this text. There is more going on here than the human eye can see. Rich people give big donations into the Temple treasury. An old woman comes along and puts in two small coins. Then Jesus does the maths and tells us that the old woman gave more than the rich people gave. They made contributions. She gave her all. But what’s the story?
Rich people represent us all in the days of our health and strength. When we are young and full of vitality, when our prospects are good and the day has a busy agenda, when we can do so much and travel so far, then life is good and God is in his heaven and we can nod in that direction and get on with the business of living.
The old woman represents the days of sorrow, when old age or sickness or loss come upon us, when the energy to do great things has gone, when life nears its end and our next station stop is the pearly gates. Quite naturally then our thoughts turn to God and we cast all our emotions and feeble hopes on his goodness and his care for us.
I have known the bright day and the sunshine of youth. I have known the prestige of being admired and acknowledged. Not that I sought these things, but they were there as a given for a priest in the Church. I have known the busy hour and the demanding agenda. I have known my importance in the scheme of things.
Now, at 70, retired, widowed and living by myself the spotlight does not seek me out. I am not important anymore. My two small coins rattle around in my pocket looking for a collection box. It is now that the old lady has something to teach me.
Keeping what we have to ourselves will not save us. Giving all in the service of God will enlarge what we have and what we are beyond measure. I must learn to give what I have, however little it seems. It will be the more in God’s eyes.
Back at the Temple Jesus is people-watching. The rich are very easy to see. They stand out. The old woman passes by unnoticed by others. But Jesus sees her. He notices and he knows. This woman is as important as anybody else in this world. In fact, she has become famous anonymously precisely because Jesus noticed her and spoke about her.
This is a Christian truth. Every human being, every life is important: important to oneself first of all, important to God most of all, and important for all of us to learn. So Jesus draws attention.
My mammy lived a long life, of 94 years. She was very healthy and vigorous in her days. She was, as they say in Ireland, a mighty woman. She became a widow for 22 of those years and lived faithfully the life of the cross, the joys and the sorrows of life. Must we not take sorrow too?
At the end her final two years were her final two small coins of life. She had had to say goodbye to all she had known and possessed in this world. Those final two years were spent, one in hospital and the other in a care home. She spent them well, being a patient recipient of all the care she needed.
On the day I said goodbye to her, leaving Ireland after a holiday visit, I said to her what she had so often said to me. ‘We are all in the hands of God, mammy.’ ‘Yes, Brian,’ she answered. ‘We are all in God’s hands.’
Here on my computer screen I have an image of my mother in her care home bed. She looks at me from the centre of her being, down all the days and years, and that look enters my heart again this morning.
Remember the old lady and her two small coins. There is a world in there, the world of every human life.
27 November 2017