A couple of old AIF paybooks and a notebook scrawled with addresses of billets in WWI France came to light in a clean-up the other day. They belonged to my grandfather who died the year before I was born. Handling them once again gave the sense of missed connection. From all accounts, he sat lightly and optimistically towards life, never missing an opportunity to meet, greet and dream of possibilities. His pay books trace his journeys through the iconic WWI battlefields of Gallipoli and Ypres where, no doubt, he participated in action that he and his ilk never discussed. His notebook speaks of intimate and hospitable human connections.
This Remembrance Day my grandfather reminds me of all who are caught up in the great sweep of world events, carried by forces beyond their control, yet are bearers and creators of their own unique responses.
Like the destitute widow mentioned in Mark’s gospel reading today – the one who furtively put all her two coins in the Temple receptacle alongside the contributions of the wealthy. Jesus noted (sadly, compassionately?) that, from her poverty, she had given much more than the paltry gifts of the wealthy from their abundance.
Perhaps she too, was a creative player against a system born of vast sweeping uncontrollable forces. The temple system was exposed to the greed, corruption and political play of less than pious opportunists. Jesus’ railing against the Temple traders and money-changers attests to the familiarity of “the way things worked – but what can one do but go along with it?” The totality of the widow’s gift can be seen as a defiant negation of a system that is rigged against her. In treating the gift to the Temple as originally intended, she is nevertheless aiding and abetting the very enterprise that is exploiting and “devouring widow’s houses.”
She, too, becomes characteristic in Jesus’ teaching – a type perhaps of how Jesus, in the remaining chapters of Mark’s gospel, gives himself wholly to unrelenting forces of power and political expediency in order to bring about the realisation of love’s purpose – the realm of God at large amongst and within us.
When faced with overwhelming forces, whether it be human conflict, the GFC, post 9/11 paranoia, or the technological revolution, it seems to me that my grandfather and the widow of Mark 12 point out our choices – be overcome by the flow or make your own creative gestures that counteract and subvert the deadly discourses.