REFLECTION: Demand changes to structured injustice

Bishop Thomas Gumbletonby Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

On a weekend when the parish family is being asked, as you are today, to sign pledge cards for the coming year indicating your support of the parish and its service to the members, but also all of its outreach programs, it would be a real temptation, and maybe you would expect that I and any of the priests preaching this weekend would really focus on that poor widow, giving from her very need while others give from their abundance, make everybody feel guilty if you don’t really give a lot.

But actually, that probably isn’t the main point of today’s Gospel lesson. It’s important to listen to the first part, which provides the context from within which Jesus sights the example of the widow. The context shows us Jesus preaching harshly against those who exploit the widow, the orphan, and the poor. “Beware of those teachers of the law, the very teachers, the religious leaders who enjoy walking around in long robes being greeted in the marketplace and who like to occupy reserved seats in the synagogue, the first places at banquets.”

They like to be given a lot of attention, the religious leaders. Jesus said, “They even devour the widows’ and the orphans’ goods while they make a show of their long prayers, calling attention to themselves.” “Devour the widows and the orphan’s goods,” they exploit them, do injustice to them. Here Jesus is reminding us that it’s important, yes, to reach out to the poor in the context of this Gospel lesson and the Scriptures during the time of Jesus and the time of the chosen people. The Scriptures highlight the widow and the orphan — the most vulnerable people in that society.

They had no means to support themselves and they were dependent upon the charity of other people. But not only are they not being provided with charity, Jesus points out they’re being exploited, used. In our own time (this is really the important message of this Gospel) we should be listening to what our church teaching has been telling us through our Catholic social teaching.

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