8—We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. (Forgiveness)
A Reading from the Gospel of Mark 12:38-44
38As [Jesus] taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! 40They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
41He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
The Word of God for the People of God. Thanks be to God.
A reading from Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps (Richard Rohr, 2011, Franciscan Media, p. 69)
You learn to salve the wounds of others by knowing and remembering how much it hurts to hurt. Often this memory comes from the realization of your past smallness and immaturity, your selfishness, your false victimhood, and your cruel victimization of others. It is often painful to recall or admit, yet this is also the grace of lamenting and grieving over how we have hurt others…Fortunately, God reveals our sins to us gradually so we can absorb what we have done over time. “Little by little you correct those who have offended you, so that they can abstain from evil, and learn to trust in you, O God,” says the book of Wisdom (12:2).
A reading from Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (2015, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., pp. 77-78)
This is a very large order. It is a task which we may perform with increasing skill, but never really finish. Learning how to live in the greatest peace, partnership, and brotherhood with all men and women, of whatever description, is a moving and fascinating adventure. Every A.A. has found that he [she] can make little headway in this new adventure of living until he/she first backtracks and really makes an accurate and unsparing survey of the human wreckage he/she has left in his/her wake…This reopening of emotional wounds, some old, some perhaps forgotten, and some still painfully festering, will at first look like a purposeless and pointless piece of surgery. But if a willing start is made, then the great advantages of doing this will so quickly reveal themselves that the pain will be lessened as one obstacle after another melts away.
These obstacles, however, are very real. The first, and one of the most difficult, has to do with forgiveness. The moment we ponder a twisted or broken relationship with another person, our emotions go on the defensive. To escape looking at the wrongs we have done another, we resentfully focus on the wrong he/she has done us. This is especially true if he/she has, in fact, behaved badly at all. Triumphantly we seize upon his misbehavior as the perfect excuse for minimizing or forgetting out own.
Right here we need to fetch ourselves up…In many instances we are dealing with fellow sufferers, people whose woes we have increased. If we are now about to ask forgiveness for ourselves, why shouldn’t we start out by forgiving the, one and all?
HOMILY Pastor Melissa Lemons
Sunday, November 11, 2018 Step 8 and Mark 12:38-44
Greetings of grace and peace to you in the name of Christ.
This gospel reading is an odd set of observations by Jesus. It’s not clear why he was observing people at the Temple, but it’s clear he didn’t like what he saw. What did he see? There were puffed up scribes and well-heeled folks who took advantage of the vulnerable people and vulnerable people displaying just how much they had been damaged by a corrupt social and political system. The people who were supposed to care for the widows were the ones robbing them and making their lives more difficult.
It’s bad enough that the scribes were taking advantage of the widows, but they were also putting on a show for the rest of society—making themselves look good to others. Their behavior was the opposite of Step 8. Rather than recognizing their wrongdoings and the harm they’d caused for the widows, the scribes tried to make themselves look righteous so that they could continue to misuse the vulnerable people in their care.
This is a “what not to do” passage. In the past people used this passage to show how faithful the widow was, how much she trusted God, as if her total self-sacrifice was something to emulate. I’m not sure that’s the message Jesus wanted to convey. He is clearly indicating that she has given more than all the rest, but he does not seem to be saying that she should have to give that much while others do less.
The tension between what is good and what is enough is important in this passage, though I think we often skip over the tension and look for a simple “take home” message from the passage. Step 8 seems simple enough, an extension of the moral inventory and preparation for Step 9, making amends, but Step 8 is never really complete. We may not recognize all that we have done wrong and the people we have wronged and who have wronged us may never see their roles in the process. We are human beings, meaning that we will always be in a process of development and meaning making. Jesus doesn’t give us simple answers in this passage, though he clearly points out sin. We may never have simple, complete interpretations of our behavior and the behavior of others.
I imagine the widow in this passage would forgive the scribes who took advantage of her. She seems to be a giving and so, probably, a forgiving kind. One commentary suggested we look at this passage from the point of view of the two coins. We may each be the scribe or the widow in one or more relationships. Our goal is to try to figure out how to be the offering at all times. No matter how big or how small, how can our efforts be about peace-making, forgiveness, honesty, and second changes?
It’s important to know the past so that we can learn from it. It’s important to imagine the future so that we have something to strive for. It’s also important to think about who we are and what we value so that we can continue to review the past with the confidence that we are forgiven and pursue the future with the intention to be a blessing to others as we have been blessed through all the steps of recovery.
May your coins, those small efforts made in sincerity, keep on giving.
Thanks be the God.