HUMILITY: On How Our Lord Went On Monday To Preach In The Temple, Where He Praised The Poor Widow’s Offering, And Returned To Bethany In The Evening, by Isabel de Villena

Isabel de Villena

From Vita Christi

Our merciful Lord, realizing that his mission was coming to an end, and that the term of his life would soon be over, with courageous spirit forced himself to preach, going every day from Bethany to Jerusalem, presenting himself at the temple, and proclaiming his divine teaching to those who wished to hear it.  Even so, ill will was already to widespread among the entire people that very few wished to hear him, but rather they fled from any location where His Majesty was, feeling deeply ashamed to have his friendship.

And, therefore, the holy Apostles and all the others who followed him at that time are fittingly exalted and deservingly rewarded, for great love and faith must have kept them steadfast while they saw Our Lord thus persecuted, whose name nobody dared utter in public.

So, therefore, the nearer Our Lord drew to death and the more his persecution mounted, the fuller by far was the love he showed to his disciples and to those in his service, by revealing great secrets to them and encouraging them to question him concerning the doubts they had, so that he might inform them about these at length before his death.  And to all in general did he display his very great charity and his unquenchable thirst for the salvation of souls, attracting them by every possible means.  So Our Lord could say: Popule meus, quic ultra debui facere tibit et non feci?, meaning: “O Jewish people whom I have chosen as my own, why have you disowned me in such a way that you do not wish to hear my teaching?  Have you not appreciated or acknowledged the single benefits I have performed? Above every nation have I exalted you, yet you think only of demeaning me; I wish to give my life for you, yet you will not accept my preaching; everything that I had promised to your ancestors, have I fulfilled in deed, yet you have held none of it dear.  I wish to show you, therefore, quia doleo super [because I grieve], for I grieve deeply at the loss of you, which shall be irreparable.”

So Our Lord, tormented within his soul at the great callousness and ingratitude of the Jews, and realizing that they listened to him with such scant devotion, stopped preaching and sat down on a bench that stood in front of the treasury, which was a chest in which people put the coins they offered to the temple.  And in that place were high priests and rabbis who guarded that chest, and those who brought large quantities of gold or silver with which to make such an offering and to put in the said chest, they would welcome with great solemnity and reverence, while preaching openly and telling all those who came there that whoever brought a greater quantity to that place achieved far greater merit.

And while Our Lord was watching this, a poor widow came and placed two copper coins in the said chest, which she had earned by the labor of her hands and of which none more remained in her house.  Instead, she had decided to go through the day without eating in order to make that offering to Our Lord; yet the priests who were sitting there made no mention of the said woman, but rather scoffed at what she had given.

But Our Merciful Lord, who fully acknowledged the devotion of women, was not prepared to tolerate the fact that the merit of this singular offering should be kept silent.  Rather, he wished that by his divine lips it be praised and commended to the glory of women, whose offerings and alms-giving proceed from such fervent love that, however small they may seem in quantity, are very great in the eyes of Our Lord God and highly appreciated by him.  So, therefore, Our Majesty said, wishing openly to show the woman’s offering to be so outstanding that it surpassed those of the rich people who had given large sums, and addressing his words to the Apostles, he said: Vere dico vobis quia vidua haec pauper plus quam omens misit, meaning, “O my disciples, behold how acutely the intellects of these people are blinded by avarice, insofar as they fail to notice the devotion of those who give offerings or to appreciate their goodwill; they simply praise and approve whoever brings a greater sum of money.  Truly, I say to you that this poor widow who has just put the two small coins in the treasury has given much more than all the rich people have, for they give from the surplus they have, but she has given everything she had on which to subsist today.  Yet the priests scoff at her because she has given so little, but they have fallen into grave error, and of them has David said: Qui habitat in caelis irridebit eos [He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh], for my Father, who dwells and abides in Heaven, ridicules them and holds them in abomination, as if cut off from his grace and love.

Once he had said this, His Majesty departed from there in order to return to Bethany, and the priests remained so incensed that they would have eaten him alive, had that been possible for them.  But when he arrived in Bethany, he was welcomed with singular love and devotion by his excellent mother and by the glorious Magdalene, and all rejoiced greatly at his arrival.

And the kindly Martha quickly prepared dinner, as she knew that he had not eaten, for in the city of Jerusalem there was no one who thought about the health of his royal body or about the repose thereof, but rather they – mainly the elders, who abhorred him with an implacable hatred – wished for his death and destruction.  And it is said, therefore, of that desolate city: Deserta est a sanctis, deserta a sanctitate, a fide et veritate [This is a desert by the saints, the deserted places of holiness, from the faith and the truth.], for, on account of its great malevolence, was it forsaken by the holy prophets, whom they killed and persecuted, and more recently was it forsaken and abandoned by the Saint of saints, whom with such cruelty they persecuted and cast out and refused to welcome, and it was, of course, forsaken by all sanctity when it forfeited the presence of His Majesty, and henceforth neither faith nor truth were found therein.

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