Image: Worn out fishing boat, Darnley Bay, Paulatuk
Let me tell you about the first car that I ever owned. It was a Toyota Starlet, a tiny little car that had been handed down through many owners and seen many miles. I bought it from my brother-in-law for a dollar, I was a student at the time, and it was all I could afford. The car had once been silver, but by the time I got it, it was mostly the color of rust. I remember the door handles would keep falling off and out of frustration one day I fixed the problem permanently by drilling through them with big wood screws so they would not ever fall off again. It was the kind of car that you never had to lock the doors as it gave off the aura of poverty and no thief would have wasted their time with it.
But you know that car never let me down. It would turn over and start up willingly even at -40C. It kept rolling through my school years and I eventually passed it on to someone who was in a tough situation and needed transportation. I would not be surprised if it were still out there somewhere today getting its driver where they needed to go without a complaint.
The memory of this car came back to me as I sat with the readings for today. They speak about appearances and self-giving.
In the Gospel, Jesus is teaching in the temple and as he looks around at the coming and going of the people, he describes to his listeners what he sees. First, he cannot help but notice those who have come to worship in their finery. He singles out the scribes in their flowing robes, who are greeting everyone around as if they own the place. They exude confidence because of their status, but Jesus says be wary, sometimes appearances betray. They are like an old car with a shiny new paint job sitting on the used car lot. It looks beautiful but that is to distract the unsuspecting buyer from the problems that lie underneath the hood.
Then Jesus points out the widow, most people probably would not have noticed her. She is unassuming, likely keeping to herself. People would pass by her without a thought.She has lost so much and is now just trying to get by. As they watch, she places her coins in the offering but what Jesus sees is not money but the attitude behind the gesture. This is not about showing off or being seen. Despite having next to nothing the woman gives all that she has as an offering to God.
The offering that God desires is our life. If you think about the image of my old car, God does not want to see us arrive in heaven all shiny and new. We are meant to spend ourselves in His service, to be dented and worn and well traveled in our giving to our families, to our neighbors and to those in need. St. Paul speaks about this to Timothy in the first reading. “I have run the race”, he says, “I have fought the good fight”. Paul is in prison, and probably a little more than worn out and tired. But he is still alive in Christ, still faithful, still hopeful.
As humble as it was, my little old car served me well but, in the end, it was just a car, just a machine. What we have to offer God is so much more. Let us spend ourselves in God’s service willingly and without reservation, following the example of Jesus.