Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on November 22, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 21:1-4

When Jesus looked up he saw some wealthy people putting their offerings into the treasury and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins. He said, “I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel passage that we read today contrasts two kinds of religious people. In the first part of the passage, Jesus observes some wealthy people who behave ostentatiously. In the second part of the passage, Jesus comments on the poor widow who, without ostentation, gives of everything she has to support the work of the Temple.

This text comes at the end of Jesus’ public ministry and introduces the account of the Lord’s passion and death. In a way, it sums up everything that has come before. Throughout the gospel to this point, Jesus has decried the falseness of religious people who act outwardly as though God were important in their lives but in their hearts suffer from pride and arrogance. He repeatedly has taught that those who are small in the eyes of the world are great in the eyes of God. Jesus’ praise of the widow encapsulates his entire teaching. Moreover, the widow’s willingness to surrender everything she has for God anticipates Jesus’ own sacrifice and willingness to suffer the loss of everything to achieve God’s purpose.

A side note is worth considering. Christians rightly have seen in the widow’s sacrifice something entirely worthy of praise. After all, her heart taught her to give completely and trust that God would provide. But it is possible that the passage has another lesson to teach. The wealthy with great fanfare give fortunes of donations to the Temple without eating into their capital. It is at least possible that their example led the widow to do something imprudent, to give all she had to survive, and a part of the corruption of the wealthy was their leading the widow to do something which injured her.

Saint of the day: In the fourth century appeared a Greek religious romance on the Loves of Cecilia and Valerian, written, like those of Chrysanthus and Daria, and Julian and Basilissa, in glorification of the virginal life, and with the purpose of taking the place of such sensual romances of Daphnis and Chloe, and Chereas and Callirhoe, which were then popular. There may have been a foundation of fact on which the story was built up, but the Roman Calendar of the fourth century and the Carthaginian Calendar of the fifth make no mention of Cecilia.

According to the tradition that exists, Cecilia was a cultivated young patrician woman whose ancestors loomed large in Rome’s history. She vowed her virginity to God, but her parents married her to Valerian of Trastevere. Cecilia told her new husband that she was accompanied by an angel, but in order to see it, he must be purified. He agreed to the purification and was baptized; returning from the ceremony, he found her in prayer accompanied by a praying angel. The angel placed a crown on each of their heads, and offered Valerian a favor; the new convert asked that his brother be baptized.

The two brothers developed a ministry of giving proper burial to martyred Christians. In their turn, they were arrested and martyred for their faith. Cecilia buried them at her villa on the Apprian Way and was arrested for the action. She was ordered to sacrifice to false gods; when she refused, she was martyred in her turn.

The Acta of Cecilia includes the following: “While the profane music of her wedding was heard, Cecilia was singing in her heart a hymn of love for Jesus, her true spouse.” It was this phrase that led to her association with music. Her martyrdom was about 117. First suffocated for a while, she did not die. She was then beheaded.

Spiritual reading: Jesus is our true Mother in nature by our first creation, and he is our true Mother in grace by his taking our created nature. All the lovely works and all the sweet loving offices of beloved motherhood are appropriated to the second person, for in him we have this godly will, whole and safe forever, both in nature and in grace, from his own goodness proper to him. (The Book of Showings by Dame Juliana of Norwich)

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