Year C 2019
October 20, 2019
The parable begins with a description of a judge. He did not fear God. He had no respect for people. He was powerful and he thought about himself first. He was the center of the world and so this widow could offer him nothing and he was in the business of being a judge for himself; what could he get out of this deal? There was no decision made that was not to his advantage as a judge or as a power broker in the community. He was not a judge to provide justice; to do what is right; to act as a fiduciary for those who came to his court. He was self-serving.
Now the widow brought her case before this unscrupulous judge. She had a great case. She was in the right. She was owed something. She deserved justice but could not offer the judge anything; no special backroom deal which would give him money or power. She had no political clout. She had no ability to pay him off. All she had was truth.
But she did have one tool. She was irritating. She was unrelenting. Her persistence was an irritation and to such a degree that the judge takes her case so that he can get rid of her. And so, Jesus’ point is clear. If the judge who cares for no one except himself will respond to the widow, then how is GOD, who loves you, going to respond?
What an incendiary concept for Jesus to put forward. We must persist and not lose hope even when hope seems far away. God’s justice will be established.
I think this Gospel is about persistence and the need for us to be disciplined. How do we pray and what is the purpose of prayer? There was once a member of my parish named Barbara who was mentally handicapped. Every time I hear this story, I think about her. One of her gifts was persistence. Once she decided something that was the way it would be. For her birthday one year she decided to have a big party. She told no one at the home she lived so they were not prepared for what Barbara had planned. She took the church directory and called everyone in the parish and invited them to come and to bring a cake for her birthday. One hundred people and 20 cakes ended up at the party.
Barbara also gave to us her desire to pray and to pray unceasingly. Whenever she came to church on a weekday, she wanted to go into the church and pray with me. Most of the time I thought I was too busy. There were things more important I had to attend to. I found out that no matter what was going on or what other, seemingly, important things I thought I had to do, I would soon be in the church praying beside Barbara. Vestry meeting? No, I was going to be with Barbara. Sermon time, staff meeting, bible study, people waiting to see me - it did not matter. She was persistent and she was much like the widow in the parable today. No was not an option. I think she was God’s gift to remind me of the worldliness that at times is so attractive and seems to take over my life and she was a reminder of Jesus’ words in this parable.
I have decided that Barbara probably lived out Paul’s understanding that life is to be prayer. It was and is what we are called to as God’s people; to be in intimate communication with our Creator.
The widow comes with a desire to have justice and it is not a whim. This is her life. She comes to a judge and asks the judge to consider her case. She is not asking for a new car or a better job. She is asking the judge to make a wrong right again. She is asking for what hers is rightfully. She is not asking for more than what she should get. She is asking for justice. But the judge doesn’t care about justice. The judge cares about himself and what he can get out of the deal.
But her persistence is key, and persistence is key to prayer. Be unrelenting. Be like the widow. Be like Barbara. I have been asked ‘can I pray for this or that’? Yes. Pray about anything and everything on your mind. Pray for things which affect you. Pray for things which you ask God to do for others. Pray for your enemies. Pray and give thanks for the bounty God has given to you. Pray for the little things and the big things. You will see prayer is the beginning.
I have known many people in my life whose prayers seemed to do more than my prayers ever did. Maybe they were just more in tune with God’s will. Maybe they understood that prayer is not us trying to change God’s mind, but us seeking to know God’s will and then finding ways to live out that will so that God’s Kingdom, not ours, reigns. We pray as hard as we can and then add, thy will be done at the end. If your prayer is for those who do not have enough food, then pray fervently to God that they will be fed and then go and feed. The work of prayer is our work and we ask, in and through prayer, to be changed into vessels of grace which change the world.