Monday, November 24, 2014

What the widow gave?

Most of us, I suspect, are familiar with today's gospel, often called the widow's mite. Even as child the term left me baffled. I understood it to mean that she gave all that she had. She threw all her money into the box. When I looked at the word Luke used, the story took on a whole new meaning. Luke chose the word "bios."

As you may remember from earlier reflections, the scriptures use two Greek words, bios and zoe, to distinguish two different kinds of life. Bios is the life we get at conception, biological life. Zoe is the one we get at baptism. It is eternal life, a share in the divine life of God.

What the widow gives is not just all of her money, or all her possessions. She goes to the temple and hands back to God her entire human life. From a purely human point of view this would leave her dead. But it doesn't because it is not just a donation but an exchange. She hands over the bios and God fills her with zoe.

The catch is that we can't have both. We have to choose. The more we cling to the bios, the less room there is in us for zoe. The irony is that our so called survival instinct is what will lead ultimately to our death, real death, eternal death.

If we want the zoe, we have to make room. Like the widow we have to give away the bios. Most of us cannot do what the widow did and give it away in a single donation. For most of us it is a lifelong process, involving a lot of back and forth.

Infant baptism makes sense to me because there is room in an infant. They have not yet gotten attached to their possessions, their position, their ambitions. They aren't yet clinging to the stuff of earthly life. As we get older, like a tree, we put down roots in the earth. We are harder to move.

The good news is that once we have first received the gift of zoe. We can never completely push it out. Even when we get almost complete sucked into this life, the Holy Spirit remains in us and calls to us.

Let us look at how we spend this day. Watch our actions. Listen to our words. As we think about the widow today, let us open our hearts, open our hands and let God take our old life and fill us completely with his life—the only real life that matters.