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Angelus Address: On the Proud Scribe and the Poor Widow

‘God Doesn’t Measure the Quantity but the Quality, Scrutinizes the Heart and Looks at the Purity of the Intentions’

Here is a ZENIT translation of the address Pope Francis gave November 11, 2018, before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square. The crowd was estimated at 20,000.

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Before the Angelus:

 Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Today’s Gospel episode (Cf. Mark 12:38-44) closes the series of teachings Jesus imparted in the Temple of Jerusalem and highlights two contrasting figures: the scribe and the widow. But why are they opposite? The scribe represents important, rich and influential people. The other, the widow, represents the least, the poor and the weak. In reality Jesus’ resolute judgment in dealing with the scribes, doesn’t concern the whole category, but refers to those that exhibit their social position, who are proud of their title “Rabbi,’ that is, teacher, who love to be waited on and occupy the first places (Cf. vv. 38-39). What is worse is that their ostentation is especially of a religious nature because they pray — says Jesus —  “long prayers to be seen” (v. 40) and make use of God to credit themselves as defenders of His law. And this attitude of superiority and vanity leads them to have contempt for those that count little and are in a disadvantaged economic position, such as the widow.

Jesus unmasks this perverse mechanism: He denounces the oppression of the weak made instrumentally on the basis of religious motivations, saying clearly that God is on the side of the least. And to impress this lesson thoroughly in the disciples’ mind, He gives them a living example: a poor widow, whose social position was insignificant, because she didn’t have a husband who could defend her rights and therefore became an easy prey of an unscrupulous creditor, because these creditors persecuted the weak to make them pay. This woman, who puts only two coins in the Temple’s treasury, all that she had left, makes her offering, hoping to go unnoticed, almost embarrassed. However, in this humility, she in fact carries out an act charged with the religious and spiritual meaning. That gesture, full of sacrifice doesn’t escape Jesus’ attentive gaze who rather sees shine in it the total gift of self, to which He wants to educate His disciples.

The teaching that Jesus gives us today helps us to recover what is essential in our life and fosters a concrete and daily relationship with God. Brothers and sisters, the Lord’s scales are different from ours. He weights differently persons and their gestures: God doesn’t measure the quantity but the quality, scrutinizes the heart and looks at the purity of the intentions. This means that our “giving” to God in prayer and to others in charity must always shun ritualism and formality, as well as the logic of calculation, and be an expression of gratuitousness, as Jesus has done with us: He has saved us for free. And we must do things as an expression of gratuitousness.

See why Jesus points out that poor and generous widow as a model of Christian life to imitate. We don’t know her name, but we know her heart — we will certainly find her in Heaven and will go to greet her — and that’s what counts before God.

When we are tempted by the desire to appear and to be taken into account for our altruistic gestures, when we are too interested in other’s look and — allow me the word — when we are like “peacocks,” let us think of this woman. It will do us good: it will help us to strip ourselves of the superfluous to go to what really counts, and to remain humble.

May the Virgin Mary, a poor woman who gave herself completely to God, support us in our resolution to give to the Lord and to brethren not something of ours, but ourselves, in a humble and generous offer.

[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

  © Libreria Editrice Vatican

 

After the Angelus

 The Beatification of Father Theodore Illera del Olmo and fifteen companion martyrs took place yesterday at Barcelona. They were thirteen consecrated persons and three lay faithful. Nine Religious and laymen belonged to the Congregation of Saint Peter in Chains; three were Capuchin religious women of the Mother of the Divine Shepherd and one was a Franciscan of the Sacred Heart. All these new Blesseds were killed for their faith in different places and dates during the war and religious persecution of the last century in Spain. We praise the Lord for these courageous witnesses of His and we applaud them!

Observed today is the centenary of the end of World War I, which my Predecessor Benedict XV described as “useless slaughter.” Therefore at 1:30 pm today Italian time, bells will ring throughout the world, including those of St. Peter’s Basilica. The historical page of the first world conflict is a severe warning to all to reject the culture of war, and to seek every legitimate means to put an end of conflicts, which still bloody several areas of the world.

It seems that we don’t learn. While we pray for the victims of that enormous tragedy, we say forcefully: let us invest in peace, not in war. And we take, as emblematic sign that of Saint Martin of Tours, whom we remember today: he cut his cloak in half to share it with a poor man. May this gesture of human solidarity point out to all the way to make peace.

Next Sunday the Second World Day of the Poor will be celebrated with many initiatives of evangelization, of prayer and of sharing. Also here, in St. Peter’s Square, a health post has been set up, which will offer care for a week to all those who are in difficulty. I hope that this Day will foster increasing attention to the needs of the least, the marginalized and the hungry.

I thank all of you who have come from Rome, from Italy and from many parts of the world.

I greet the faithful of Mengibar (Spain), those of Barcelona, the group of the Immaculate Heart of Mary from Brazil and that of the Worldwide Union of Catholic Teachers. I greet the ACLI Tourist Center of Trento, the faithful of San Benedetto Po and the Confirmation candidates of Chiuppano. I also greet the many Poles I see here. There are so many!

I wish you all a happy Sunday. And, please, don’t forget to pray for me. Enjoy your lunch and goodbye!

[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

  © Libreria Editrice Vatican

About Virginia Forrester

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