Let yourselves be drawn by the lowly (Rom. 12:16)
Calling our attention are those who go around in long robes, receiving greetings in marketplaces and lavish welcome in religious services and banquets. They are admired by the people who are unaware of their crafty abuse of widows and of their hypocrisy. It is their company that is sought by one with delusions of grandeur by association, bending over backward to give them the best places and relegating the poor in shabby clothes to standing just anywhere or to sitting on the floor.
Attracting Jesus’ attention more is the poor widow. Without knowing it, she points to the reality inaugurated by him of things being upside-down. She exemplifies what the Teacher lives and preaches: emptiness is fullness; humiliation is exaltation; the hungry are filled; authority means service. Through this favorably singled-out poor woman, the one who is the presence of God’s kingdom shows that within reach is the kingdom that turns everything upside-down.
The turning upside-down of our situation has begun, such that it is explained how is it that David’s son is also his Lord. Above all, it can be seen now that those who count are neither the rich people who make huge donations nor those wearing fine clothing who live in royal palaces nor the nameless rich man who dresses in purple garments and fine line and dines sumptuously each day, but rather those like this poor widow who gives all, though little, or like St. John the Baptist in the desert or like Lazarus, whose help is God. In the kingdom of God, as St. Louise de Marillac and St. Vincent de Paul both recognized, the royalties are the widows, the orphans and the aliens, not by blood but by their generous and noble spirit. Like Jesus, poor people contribute even what they need in order to live. It makes sense, therefore, to affirm with St. Vincent that “we live on the patrimony of Jesus Christ, on the sweat of the poor,” Jesus Christ and the poor being juxtaposed.
Such generosity is what the poor widow especially represents. Hence, she challenges us who seek to follow Jesus. The true disciple does not cling to his possessions, in imitation of the one who, although in the form of God, emptied himself. The Christian worthy of the name does not play either Ananias, who with Sapphira, retained part of the proceeds, or the champion of evil who trusts in great wealth and relies on devious plots (Ps. 52). Jesus’ follower first sells what he has and gives to the poor; he lets go of everything, including his likes and dislikes, his ambition and interest, and instead of relying on customs and traditions, on dogmas and rites, and finding in them his security and his certainty, he puts his trust, like Jesus, in the Father who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all. The believer casts al his cares upon the faithful God who helps his servants and remembers his mercy and his promises. The faithful does not doubt Jesus’ assurance that anyone who gives up everything for Christ’s sake and for the sake of the Gospel will receive a hundred times more in this present age and eternal life in the age to come.
They will be fully realized, yes, when Christ appears a second time to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him, the repentance and transformation that we have a foretaste of in the Eucharist, the upside-down sign that to give is to receive.