In the Gospel Reading, Jesus puts the scribes down. He says they wear odd clothes and make long prayers in order to get noticed; and they want to be noticed because they love being honored. They also prey on widows.
Widows tend to have little money and less power. A person who preys on widows is really dishonorable. But the scribes are dishonorable even just in striving for honor, aren’t they? If you saw your mother trying hard to get to be honored by others, you’d be ashamed for her, wouldn’t you? There is something shameful about trying hard to get honor.
It follows that Christians should not care about honor. In fact, if a person who seeks honor is shameful, then it seems that a person who strives not to care about honor is honorable. And so it seems that it ought to be a point of honor with Christians that they disdain honor.
But here things can begin to slide out of control.
Suppose you seek the honor of disdaining honor. Does this seeking after honor make you like the scribes? If it is shameful to seek after honor, is it also shameful to seek after the honor of disdaining honor?
And if it is shameful to strive for honor and also shameful to strive to disdain honor, is there any road at all to honor?
It is worth noticing that in the Gospel Reading, Jesus singles out a widow for honor. Poor as she is, she is giving from the little she has in order to help those who are needier than she is. Jesus praises her and points her out as an exemplar of goodness. To be praised by Jesus is to be honored indeed!
So how did that widow get this singular honor?
The first thing to notice about her is that she wasn’t striving for honor, as the scribes were. Although Jesus noticed her, she wasn’t trying to get noticed.
And the second thing to notice about her is that she wasn’t trying to disdain honor either. The only thing she was trying to do is to help those in need.
And so her behavior shows the solution to the puzzle about honor. The only true road to honor is to love the good and pay no attention at all to honor one way or another.
**From Saint Louis University