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Angelus Address: On the Poor Widow’s Offering

“Faced with the needs of others, we are called to deprive ourselves of essential things, not only the superfluous; we are called to give the necessary time, not only what remains extra; we are called to give immediately and unconditionally some of our talent, not after using it for our own purposes or our own group”

Here is a working translation of the address Pope Francis gave today in St. Peter’s Square before and after praying the midday Angelus. The translation is provided by Basilian Fr. Thomas Rosica, English-language assistant for the Vatican press office.

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Dear brothers and sisters, good morning… on such a beautiful, sunny day!  

The Gospel passage of this Sunday is composed of two parts: one that describes how not to be followers of Christ; the other proposes an ideal model of a Christian. Let’s start first: what not to do. In the first part, Jesus criticizes the scribes, teachers of the law, for three defects that occur in their lifestyle: pride, greed and hypocrisy. They like to “receive greetings in the marketplaces, have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets” (Mark 12:38-39). But under such solemn appearances they are hiding falsehood and injustice .

While strutting around in public, they use their authority – as Jesus says – to “devour widows’ houses” (v.40), who were considered, along with orphans and foreigners, to be the people most vulnerable and least protected. Finally, Jesus says that the scribes, “pray for a long time to be seen” (v. 40). There is a risk that these attitudes exist even in our day. For example when prayer is separated from justice, because we cannot worship God and cause harm to the poor. Or when one claims to love God, and instead offers God one’s vainglory, to one’s own advantage.

The second part of the Gospel follows this line of thought. The scene is set in the temple of Jerusalem, precisely in the place where people threw coins as offerings. There are many rich people who pay a lot of money, and there is a poor woman – a widow – just contributing two mites, two small coins. Jesus observes the woman carefully and calls the attention of the disciples to this sharp, contrasting scene.

The rich have given with great show what for them was superfluous, while the widow, with discretion and humility, gave – Jesus says – “all she had to live” (v. 44); for this – Jesus says – she gave the most of all. Because of her extreme poverty, she could have offered a single coin for the temple and kept the other for herself. But she does not want to just give half to God; she deprived herself of everything. In her poverty she understood that having God, she has everything; she feels totally loved by Him and in turn loves Him totally. What a beautiful example this old woman offers us!   

Today Jesus also tells us that the measurement is not the quantity but the fullness. There is a difference. It is not a question of the wallet, but of the heart. There are heart diseases that lower the heart to the portfolio. To love God “with all your heart” means to trust Him, to trust in His providence, and to serve him in the poorest brothers and sisters without expecting anything in return. Faced with the needs of others, we are called to deprive ourselves of essential things, not only the superfluous; we are called to give the necessary time, not only what remains extra; we are called to give immediately and unconditionally some of our talent, not after using it for our own purposes or our own group.

Allow me to tell you a story that happened in my previous diocese. It is about a mother with her three children.  The father was at work and the family was at table eating veal cutlets alla Milanese.  Just then someone knocked at the door and one of the children – the young one who was five or six years old – the oldest was seven years old – came and said, “Mom, there’s a beggar at the door who is asking for some food.”  And the mother, a good Christian, said, “What should we do?”  “Give him some food” they said. “Ok.” She took the fork and knife and cut each person’s cutlet in half.  “Oh no, Mom! Not like this! Take something from the refrigerator!”  “No, we will make three sandwiches like this!” And thus the children learned that the meaning of true charity means that you give not from what is left over but from what we need. I am certain that that afternoon they were a bit hungry, but this is the way to do it.

Let us ask the Lord to admit us to the school of this poor widow, whom Jesus places in the teaching chair and presents as a teacher of the living Gospel even in the bewilderment of the disciples. Through the intercession of Mary, the poor woman who gave her life to God for us, ask for the gift of a poor heart, but rich in generosity that is happy and free.

[Praying of the Angelus:] [Following the Angelus address, the Pope spoke these words about the recent leaking of documents:]

Dear brothers and Sisters,

I know that many of you have been upset by the news circulating in recent days concerning the Holy See’s confidential documents that were taken and published. For this reason I want to tell you, first of all, that stealing those documents was a crime. It’s a deplorable act that does not help. I personally had asked for that study to be carried out and both I and my advisers were well acquainted with (the contents of) those documents and steps have been taken that have started to bear fruit, some of them even visible.

Therefore I wish to reassure you that this sad event certainly does not deter me from the reform project that we are carrying out, together with my advisers and with the support of all of you.  Yes, with the support of the whole Church because the Church renews itself with prayer and the daily holiness of each baptized person.

I therefore thank you and ask you to continue to pray for the Pope and the Church, without getting upset or troubled but proceeding with faith and hope.

This text has been updated to include a paragraph that was omitted in the original version.

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