As some of you know I recently went to Yellowstone National Park and led a retreat there. Before and after the retreat I had free days so I took advantage of those days and went on some hikes. The first day going in I stopped at the ranger station just to check on things and make sure there were no concerns about the trails I was considering. The ranger suggested that I download the Yellowstone Park app as it would be a help to me. I took his advice and downloaded the app. It was a great help. What they have done at Yellowstone (and I am not sure if this is at other parks or not) is that they have mapped out every trail in the park on this app. Not only that, but when you go out on the trail you take your phone with you, switch it to airplane mode so that it is not continually searching for coverage and draining your battery and with GPS the phone shows you via a little dot on the screen exactly where you are at on the trail. One phone in the vast expanse of Yellowstone communicating with some satellite in the sky telling you exactly where you are at and which way to turn when the trail splits. I just find that level of technology, connection and focus amazing!
Our Lord, in today’s gospel, has a level of focus that is also amazing. He is watching a crowd giving their contribution to the temple treasury. To his disciples he singles out one poor widow in the midst of that whole crowd. She gave not out of her surplus but, even in her poverty, she gave out of her livelihood. Her act was an act of faith and of trust. In essence it was a movement of love from her heart to the heart of God and we have a God who notices such movements – even the smallest of movements. Bl. John Henry Newman said that true evangelization, true sharing of the good news occurs when “heart speaks to heart”. There was such a communication going on here In this moment, the heart of that woman – by trusting and giving out of her livelihood – was speaking, was calling out in love to the heart of God. And the heart of God, in Christ, saw her, and heard her and blessed her for it!
Our Lord had just condemned the scribes and their need to go around in long robes, who recite lengthy prayers and who accept seats of honor in banquets in order to be noticed, but, who themselves, never notice the widows. I am sure that there were scribes in this crowd along with all the people giving out of their surplus. Just another day at the temple treasury. The people in the crowd themselves probably never noticed the poor widow. Some of them may have even viewed her as a nuisance – a nobody getting in the way of their holy and respectable duty. But, Jesus does not notice any of them because even with their long robes, their lengthy prayers and their large sums of money their hearts were not open. There is no heart speaking to heart because on their side the heart is mute and has nothing to say, despite all the show. Jesus, takes no notice of them.
Jesus sees the widow; his heart hears her. In contrast to the scribes, our Lord invites us to learn and live the simple and honest faith of the poor widow. No crowds, no distance, no outward appearances or show distract the heart of God. The heart of God is focused on the human heart that calls out to him in honesty, in love and in faith. Heart speaks to heart – this is where God will meet us. God is found and God is encountered in the sincerity of belief, the sincerity of a heart that is open, honest and trusting. In this regard our Lord confirms that the poor widow was, in fact, the richest contributor within that crowd of people that day because her heart was open. “Amen, I say to you, the poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”
“Heart speaks to heart,” true evangelization, true sharing of the good news occurs when one heart opens to another.
In this witness of the poor widow and our Lord’s noticing of her even as she seems hidden amidst the crowd of people, we also learn that God’s heart is open and searching – searching for the human heart that is open and calling upon him in humility, faith, trust and love.