Sunday thoughts: the widow's offering

By Monsignor John Devine

My favourite holiday pastime is people-watching. As a stranger, it is relaxing to sit in a cafe or on a park bench and watch the world go by.

Jesus enjoyed people-watching. His stories draw on a lifetime of observation. The Gospel for Sunday 8 November tells us exactly this. Jesus not only watches, he notices things that important people are too busy to observe. The Scribes in this passage from Mark's Gospel are not even aware of the presence of the poor widow. She is below their radar. Jesus is fascinated and moved by the day-to-day detail of little people's lives. He looks on the woman with love.

I suspect that many of the parables are autobiographical. My favourite is the advice Jesus gives on not occupying the place of honour at a table. Was a gauche and over-eager Jesus ever slapped down when he occupied a seat reserved for a local worthy? The marriage feast at Cana demonstrates that his Mother Mary was accustomed to keeping him in check. Did she add her own criticism to that dished out by the host at the banquet? Perhaps she saved it for later and gave the chastened Jesus a dressing down when they got home.

Did Jesus ever attempt to put new wine into old wine skins? Did Jesus the carpenter and jobbing builder (a white van man of his day) ever build a house on sand only to find it collapsing when the floods came? Was he ever beaten up and left for dead on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho? God became man in Jesus, like us in all things but sin. Does that allow for mistakes? How many more of the parables draw their wisdom and insight from lessons learned the hard way?