The Eye of the Beholder

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The Eye of the Beholder

Transport yourself to the Jerusalem Temple, and what do you see? Most of us would be impressed by the important donors coming forward to deposit substantial sums in the treasury, pausing for silent applause before moving on. 

What Jesus observed was something different. A poverty-stricken widow furtively dropping a couple of coins in the box, hoping not to be noticed. “She gave more than the rest,” he said, “because she gave everything.” Two coins don’t amount to much. She could have been prudent, giving one and keeping the other. But she gave everything. 

While we were gawping at the great, Jesus fixed his eyes on the little ones. His standards of assessment were different. He understood that God looks with favor on the lowliness of “the deplorables,” and that “what is highly esteemed by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15). Whereas most of us see only the outward appearance, Jesus penetrated to the heart. 

Even today faith flourishes most among the little ones in the flock—the ones whom we scarcely notice. The high-fliers have received their reward already, the seats of honor and the obsequious greetings. Those who say their prayers and practice generosity hoping that no one will notice really are the salt of the Church. They are the ones who preserve it and add to its flavor. 

We should be grateful to God who, in Pope Francis, has given us a pastor who recognizes this truth and lives by it. 

Fr. Michael Casey

Michael Casey, a Cistercian monk of Tarrawarra Abbey in Australia, is a well-known retreat master and lecturer, and the author of many books on spirituality, including Grace: On the Journey to God, Balaam’s Donkey, and Coenobium: Reflections on Monastic Community.