Jesus and the Widow

Jon Shematek Pentecost, Reflection, Visio Divina 1 Comment

Transcript of the Post:

Welcome back to If Necessary Use Words! This is a place for praying with images. I’m Jon Shematek, a Deacon in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland.

Every Monday, we’ll look at a portion of the Gospel assigned for the upcoming Sunday, and reflect together using a form of Visio Divina, in which we combine scriptural text, images and reflection. I hope this will engage you in thought, conversation or next Sunday’s sermon.

Today we explore a portion of the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 12 verses 38-44, assigned for Proper 27A which this year falls on Sunday, November 11th.

First Listen or Read Carefully:

“As Jesus taught, he said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’

He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.’” (NRSV)

Now Look at this image of a woman, bent over, sweeping the streets somewhere in Bangladesh, using a homemade broom. See the clouds of dust rising, and the leaves swirling about, likely only to settle back in their original position, until the next rainstorm or windy day arrives. Can we even begin to imagine what her life must be like? Consider her social status, likely near the bottom rung of the ladder in her culture. Her educational opportunities and attainment. Is she able to read? How much can she possibly earn doing this menial task? Enough for food, safe shelter for herself and her children? What else do you wonder about her?

[Allow Time for Your Personal Reflection]


Now Reflect: In Mark’s Gospel lesson today, Jesus watched people putting money into the temple treasury. The ostentatious rich pour their coins into the box, making loud noises so that all may hear and see their so-called generosity. Jesus makes a point of noticing a poor widow, saying that her contribution was everything she had. Remarkable, isn’t it? Often this story is timed to coincide with stewardship season in many churches, or as the year ends and many charities ask for donations. Well-timed. Yet what is intriguing, in addition to the woman’s extraordinary generosity, was the fact that Jesus noticed her at all. As a widow, she was one of the most vulnerable of the day’s society. Easily victimized and impoverished financially, not unlike many women throughout the world today, including right here in our own country. She was invisible to all who passed her by that day. As are so many in our own culture here and now. Poor persons, street people, persons of color, women. Those who differ from us. Invisible to most of us, as we pass by, seeming to be unaware of their suffering and needs.

The poor widow was invisible, yet not to Jesus. He took notice. He saw her value as a human being, a child of God. Think now of those you may have passed by, or will pass by, today, the Invisible Ones.

[Allow Time for Your Personal Reflection]


Now Act: Today make an effort to see one of the invisible. Make eye contact, offer a smile, simply say “hello,” or find another way to acknowledge that person’s existence in some concrete manner. Follow the example of Jesus as one who was inclusive of all, particularly the victims of injustice, fear and violence. Consider the ways you can support equity for all in your own community or beyond.

[Allow Time for Your Personal Reflection]


This is Jon Shematek. Thanks so much for participating in If Necessary Use Words. A place for praying with images. Please leave a comment on this post with any personal insights, reflections, or concerns, so that others may benefit from your thoughts.

[Song: “Ambient Sonata” / Album: Ambient Sonata  / Artist: Dee Yan-Key]


[Image: “Street Sweeper” Bangladesh   Photographer: Shihab Hossain, posted on]


Comments 1

  1. Such a beautiful image and message as people go to the polls tomorrow. Voting for justice for all even the ‘invisible’ brothers and sisters!

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