In today’s Gospel Our Lord reminds us that with prestige and recognition comes expectation: the expectations we have, but also the expectations of others. When we seek recognition or prestige for their sake, climbing the social ladder, trying to get ahead in life, at some point we come to the realization, if we’re fortunate, that we’re milking past glories instead of doing the things that’d merit recognition. That’s vainglory. If we don’t realize it we can be sure that others do. Jesus puts us on guard against resting on our laurels, as some scribes did, who focused on maintaining and increasing their prestige instead of helping people to understand God’s word, which is what they were trained to do, and what was expected of them.
Does that mean we should stop trying to achieve and reject any recognition? Our focus should be on what we can do with the talents that God gives us to glorify him and serve others. Just as most of us go from elementary school to high school and on to college, those diplomas are signposts of recognition along the road of life, but also the expectation that with all that education we’ll accomplish bigger and better things not only for ourselves, but for others. If we focus on giving the best of ourselves for the sake of others, receiving recognition for it or not doesn’t matter to us. This is a healthy way of keeping our accomplishments from getting to our heads.
Let’s try to be more like the unassuming widow in today’s Gospel who gives until it hurts, seeking nothing in return, and not like the rich people who only gave of their excess and were probably just trying to maintain their prestige. Let’s ask Our Lord to show is whether we should be giving more for the sake of others, and to give glory to him for whatever recognition or prestige that comes our way.
Readings: Tobit 12:1, 5–15, 20; Psalm 13:2, 6e; Mark 12:38–44.