There was a great crowd and they listened eagerly. He said as he taught them, 'Beware of the doctors of the law, who love to walk up and down in long robes, receiving respectful greetings in the street; and to have the chief seats in synagogues, and places of honour at feasts. These are the men who eat up the property of widows, while they say long prayers for appearance' sake, and they will receive the severest sentence. Mark 12:38-40
Once he was standing opposite the temple treasury, watching as people dropped their money into the chest. Man rich people were giving large sums. Presently there came a poor widow who dropped in two tiny coins, together worth a penny. He called his disciples to him. 'I tell you this,' he said: 'this widow has given more than any of the others; for those others who have given had more than enough, but she, with less than enough, has given all that she had to live on. Mark 12:41-44
Jesus takes clericalism head on in verses 38-40. Clericalism: the rules that apply to everyday folk don't apply to deacons, priests and bishops. Clericalism is an ugly stain on the church. It makes for church leaders who are soft, lazy, entitled, materialistic, superficial...
Notice this: In all four Gospels, it's clerics who receive "the most severe sentence" v. 40 - not prostitutes, not divorcees, but clerics! Men! Indeed, in the next gospel section, it's a woman who demonstrates the kind of love human persons should have for God. Jesus must have surprised his audience by proposing a woman as an example of how to be with God.
Mother Teresa used to say to people, "Give until it hurts you." This widow understood that. In the ancient world the words, "poor widow" (no male siupport; no Social Security, no 401K) were an image of an utterly hopeless, lonely, miserable person. And this is precisely the one who still finds a way to give (in the world's eyes) recklessly to God.
I remember feeling sad and confounded one night at dinner in my first parish when the pastor told me that he had to start visiting the homes of wealthy people in the parish because the Bishop's Appeal had been announced. I wondered: Why does he have to go and grovel, when these people knew the annual appeal had begun? Why didn't they just send in their gift? Why didn't they value their pastor's time more, insisting on his visitation, turning him into something of a CEO or fundraiser?
I really like this widow because she feels her religion. There are Christians who do religious things because, "I've been raised that way," or they're motivated by fear or guilt. It makes for minimalism. "It's the least I can do," some folks say. Yes indeed. But this widow - even though it's a penny - has "given everything."
When I was student teaching in the early 1970's there was a middle-aged woman in my parish named Vicki L. She slept on a cot in the back of the parish used clothing room. My priest friend met her all smiles on the street one morning. He asked, "Vicki, what are you so happy about?" and she answered, "I've just given away my last nickle." I'm not telling anyone to copy or comment on that vignette - but I expect it has something to say to each of us.