Daniel 1:1-6, 8-20
Luke 21: 1-14
The first reading, from the book of Daniel, is set at the time of the Babylonian conquest of Judah, in the 6th century BC. However, scholars have established that it was written in the 2nd century BC, at the time when Greek kings, whose power descended from Alexander the Great’s conquest of the Persian empire, ruled Judah and were seeking to impose pagan beliefs and customs on the Jews. In this context, courageous and pious Jews, like the character Daniel and his companions, refused to eat food given to them by Gentiles, since dietary laws were a mark of fidelity to Jewish faith. In the story of this reading, this is risky behavior, but God blesses the young men by giving them physical health and intellectual insight. Daniel, like Joseph in Egypt long before him, is given the gift of understanding visions and dreams. Faithful to the Torah, he is blessed and confirmed by the Lord. The Psalm praises the Lord, ‘the God of our fathers’, as devout Jews praised his ‘holy and glorious name’, despite all the hardships and cruelty inflicted on them by the powerful of this world. The Gospel story of ‘the widow’s mite’ reminds us that our commitment to what is good and holy is profoundly personal and particular, not measured by the ‘size’ of what we give, but rather by how much we commit ourselves to what we freely give
Robert Gascoigne is a parishioner at St Brigid’s, Marrickville. He is a theologian who taught for many years at the Australian Catholic University.