The Kingdom Interpretation (Mk 12:44-48)
To profess myself a Christian is to profess a desire – and that desire is to follow behind the Lord, Jesus Christ. Perhaps “follow behind” doesn’t quite get to the heart of it. It’s more accurately a “stepping into his shoes” such that I start to look at the world the way Jesus does, start to catch the meanings he reads as he looks out at life.
One clear instance of Jesus catching a certain meaning is what occurs in the Gospel story of the poverty-stricken widow slipping up to the collection box in the Temple and dropping in her last penny. Many things are going on there, the disciples and many others standing around, conversing, contributing money and jewels, passing the time of day – a whole raft of activities. How do the different people there “read” what’s happening there? How do they interpret the scene?
Interpretation, as you’d know, is a lined-up perception of what it is that stands out to the perceiver. So a woman with an eye for dress is taken with the fashionable clothes of the donors. A man who is jealous of anyone who has more sees rich people showing off. Individuals take in the scene according to what’s uppermost in their minds, as if each has a different lens through which they’re watching. In other words, it’s not only what they see, but it’s what is inside them that lets them see what they see. What someone notices is very revealing of what is going on inside that person.
What does Jesus see there in the crowded Temple? Of all the possibilities, he spies this elderly widow off to the side shuffling up to the basket and dropping in her two pennies. And he tunes into not only what she’s doing but how and why she’s doing it. Mostly invisible to everyone there, she lights up on Jesus’ screen.
And that is because of what is going on inside him, this immense backdrop against which he sees everything – the wrap-around compassion of his beloved Father, this expanse of goodness and love Jesus calls the Kingdom of God. Looking through this lens, he notices the behaviors and attitudes that sync with what existence is like inside that Kingdom, that world of abundant mercy and concern for the other. Unlike everyone else in the room, his inner stance lets him spot the selfless, generous thing she’s doing. He’s moving from a “Kingdom perspective,” the one that privileges the pure of heart, and the peacemakers, and those who thirst after justice, and all those other beatitude traits. What comes off the page for Jesus are just these qualities as he interprets the scene through the lens of what counts in his Father’s world.
We come to a place (a church) and an activity (the Lord’s Last Supper) which are designed to open up that Kingdom lens. These and our whole Vincentian tradition are vivid backdrops against which we would look out at our world. They call us to relook at life and once again size up counts and what doesn’t. They summon us to recalibrate what’s important and what’s less so. They challenge us to reassess what attitudes and actions come first to our attention.
All our worship and prayer and our Vincentian practices are meant to take us inside and behind Jesus’ eyes, to lead us into his way of perceiving. They would have us “step into his shoes” and view the world from just that stance. Following the Lord Jesus means more than doing what he does. It means coming to see as He sees, developing our ability to react with his reactions, and catching those meanings of his dear Father which he picks out in all the corners of life.
Just because of who He is, Jesus zeroes in on the poor but very generous widow. Because of whom we’re called to follow in our faith, because of examples like Vincent and Louise and Frederick, and especially because we are continually invited to share in the Lord’s Eucharistic supper, we become more and more able to spot and do the Father’s will not just as it is in heaven but, in the words of the Our Father, as it is here on this earth.
Tags: McKenna, vincentian spirituality