2Tm 4:1-8; Ps 71:8,9,14-17,22; Mk 12:38-44
Simply, yet wonderfully have we been taught from our youth, and till the present we still proclaim His wondrous deeds. We delight to tell the story and sing the song of our salvation. We cannot give enough praise; we cannot offer enough witness, to tell of his singular justice. Each day we rise for his glory; each morning our mouths are filled with his praise, with his glory day by day. All we ask is that the Lord not cast us off in old age when strength fails, we ask do not forsake me O LORD my God. Indeed, we always hope. Each new day we find reason to hope and praise the Lord more and more. Each new day we declare His justice, day by day his salvation. So we muse in poetry and song giving thanks with music. With the songs of our ancestors, the book of Psalms, we declare the faithfulness of Our God. With our own songs of gladness, we proclaim the Holy One of Israel. Such is our life of jubilant witness and our vocation of holiness, with Saint Timothy and his mentor, Saint Paul; we are self-possessed in all circumstances. Indeed, we put up with hardships; we perform the work of an evangelist and fulfill our ministry. This is the vocation of every baptized and confirmed believer. We give such starling witness that no one is allowed to be complacent in this earthly exile. Rather, all of us are summoned to radical abandonment by offering all that we have to live on, not just a convenient and comfortable tithe.
Saint Paul summons Saint Timothy and all bishops to stand before the Throne of God and of the Lamb. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and kingly power, all bishops and all believers are commissioned in the Holy Spirit to proclaim the word. The Word of God that can alone rescue us from our prisons of idolatry. Anyone who has heard the liberating Word cannot hold back thanksgiving or witness. If the gospel is truly good news, we want others to share in its liberation. This is the work of an evangelist among the leadership and faithful of the Church in every generation. We must be persistent in season and out of season, when convenient or inconvenient. Sometimes our words of comfort and challenge will be welcome and lauded; sometimes our words of challenge and comfort will be ridiculed and mocked. No matter how people respond; we must continue to witness, preach, proclaim and sing. There will be a time for trying to convince; we are all to some extent called to be apologists. There will be a time for reprimand; we are never to judge another’s interior world because we do not know it except as it shows up in one’s actions. We must judge behavior; we must offer objective moral evaluation in order to live uprightly in this world and to live forever in the next. However necessary moral evaluation is, we must be even more vigilant to offer encouragement through patience and teaching. If we cannot give one another the benefit of the doubt, we do not love. If we cannot explain what and why the church teaches every doctrine and law, we can never comfort or challenge anyone to grow. All of this instruction for budding evangelists, on the job missionaries, is placed within the context of Saint Paul’s prediction of future stress and anxiety. Even in our own day we know people who will not tolerate sound doctrine; they follow their own desires and insatiable curiosity. These seek out a “second opinion” from some bishop or theologian who will support their own perspective. Listening to truth will give way to devouring myths. In the midst of all this we must perform the work of an evangelist, without hesitation and without regret.
Many gathered around the temple area to behold the generous, and the not so generous, giving to maintain the “house of prayer for all people.” Many in the crowd have their eyes opened by Jesus pointing to the generosity of the poor widow. While most gave out of their surplus, this woman gave out of her need. She contributed all she had, her whole livelihood. Was Jesus simply drawing attention to the startling generosity of the poor woman, or was he cleaning the temple area with the whip of his words? At the beginning of today’s gospel Jesus criticizes those who dress well, give alms, and posture themselves in public to be noticed and honored for their importance. Perhaps, this severe condemnation about which Jesus warns the scribes, the lawyers of his day, is also meant for the Temple and all it stands for. Is the temple cult justified in asking or accepting the kind of generosity that reduces any widow to abject poverty? Perhaps, Jesus is warning the institution of religion against putting its own expenses above the everyday needs of those who struggle for survival. Perhaps, we too have grown complacent in our exile. Looking towards our heavenly home at the expense of those who need our attention and help—the widows and orphans of our own day.