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Saturday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time. The reading is from the Gospel of Mark 12:41-44. 

The Widow’s Mites from Gene D. Austin’s Photo Gallery.

 

The widow’s mite – Mark 12:41-44

He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums.

A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents.

Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury.

For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

“Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.” (Luke 6:20).

In Luke, in “Sermon on the Plain” we read,

  • And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.” (Luke 6:20).

 

The Widow’s Mite by James Christensen

Luke too narrates this incident of the widow’s contribution.

The Widow’s Mite – Luke 21:1-4

When he looked up he saw some wealthy people putting their offerings into the treasury and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins.

He said, “I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.

In the narrations of both Mark and Luke, a widow donates two small coins or mites (in Greek lepta), worth a few cents, while wealthy people donate larger amounts. Jesus draws the attention of his disciples to what transpires before their eyes and then he explains to them that the small sacrifices of the poor mean more to God than the extravagant donations of the rich.

In Luke and in Mark, the widow is another example of the poor ones whose detachment from material possessions and dependence on God leads to their blessedness.

The mite

In Jesus’ times in Israel, there actually were no coins called mites. A number of tiny copper coins circulated in Judea at that time such as leptons. So, we cannot say that this coin or that coin was “the” Widow’s Mite.

However, there was a mite in the time of the King James translation, as well as in 1525, at the time of William Tyndale, who produced the earliest modern English interpretation of the New Testament.

In 1611, there were many armored safes in churches that needed to be filled. So, it was considered a social obligation to give a silver coin at church collections. Only the very poor could get away with giving a copper coin; and only the desperately poor would give a copper coin as small as a mijt (in French maille).

A widow in this period would in principle have to live without any income. The translator probably may have had a beggar and a contemporary widow in mind when he translated this passage from the original texts.

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