Tobit 12.1,5-15,20; Tobit 13; Mark 12.38-44
St Mark’s Gospel is generally considered the oldest of the four canonical Gospels in the New Testament. About 90% of it is in St Matthew’s Gospel. The passage we read today is an exception. Though Luke (who also seems to have used Mark as the basis of his Gospel) also includes a rather truncated version of the Widow’s Gift [cf Luke 21.1-4] there is no trace of this episode in Matthew’s Gospel. We can only speculate on the reasons for this omission.
Mark narrates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (the ragtag procession that we commemorate each year on Palm Sunday) at the beginning of his chapter 11. The days that follow are all delineated in Mark’s chronology: so on Monday [11.12] Jesus curses a fig tree and cleanses the Temple; on Tuesday [11.20] he teaches, has conflicts with priests, scribes and elders [11.27—12.12], with Pharisees and Herodians [12.13-17] and finally with Sadducees (i.e., the Temple priests) [12.18-27]. The poor widow with her coins appears some time on that same day. On Wednesday Judas prepared to betray Jesus [13.10-11]; on Thursday [13.12] preparations are made for the Passover Supper, and Jesus and his disciples ate that meal together [14.17-26]; afterwards they go together to Gethsemane [14.32-42] where Jesus is betrayed [14.43-45], arrested [14.46] and brought before the high priest. [14.53] On Friday he is brought to the colonial governor, Pilate [15.1], crucified [15.25], and from the cross he breathes his last breath [15.37] and is buried [15.42-46] Nothing happens on Saturday, but when the sabbath was over [16.1] a group of women came to his burial place just as the sun was rising [16.2] on Sunday and found the tomb despoiled, a young man in a white robe seated nearby. [16.5] He instructs the women to go to Galilee where they would find Jesus [16.7] but ‘they said nothing to a soul, for they were afraid….’
There Mark’s Gospel ends, and though later editors have tried to bring it to a more satisfactory conclusion, those thunderstruck women, like the woman who put into the temple treasury ‘everything she possessed, all she had to live on’, form the most fitting epigram of the Gospel we could possibly devise. ‘Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to thy cross I cling’ an 18th Century hymn writer put it. If Mark’s Gospel’s purpose is to declare God’s Good News, nothing of that evangelion is the accomplishment of human ingenuity, steadfast purpose or industry. But when everything we have is offered back to the God who is Creator and Redeemer and Sustainer, then despite our falterings and fears, our treacheries and betrayals, God’s Good News travels a trajectory we can neither chart nor thwart. Frightened out of our wits, emptied of any and every thing we once valued, Christ conquers death and leaves it impotent and unrevivable.