Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church Norman, OK
Exodus 17, 8-13 + Psalm 121 + 2 Timothy 3, 14-4,2 + Luke 18, 1-8
Luke’s Gospel is easily recognized because of his sensitive and gentle focus on widows. In a bigger picture, the women of Luke’s Gospel are given much more of a place in the work and ministry of Jesus than in the other accounts. This parable is one of nine parables found only in the Gospel of Luke It is perfect example of the way Luke shows the concern of Jesus of widows. He raises the widow’s son from the dead. He complains about the way Scribes take advantage of widows, and he holds widows as models because of their generosity toward others in need.
In the context of what Jesus has been saying to the Disciples during this part of the journey to Jerusalem, this text is certainly about prayer. However, it is not some abstract theory about prayer. It is a look into the way Jesus prays. A few verses earlier, and for us, a few weeks back, the Disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. As I said then, they did not want a formula or set of words. They wanted to know the secret or have some access to the real prayer of Jesus. What he gave them was a relationship, not a formula. He gave them the “Father.” He drew them into an intimate relationship with His Father that restructured their relationship to one another. Since that incident and dialogue, Jesus has been refining this kind of prayer with each conversation.
What unfolds for us at this point is one more piece of how it is that Jesus prays; why it is that he prays, and what it is that he prays about inviting us to enter into that prayer with him. This is much more than a proposal that we pray with persistence. In some ways that can end up being a mindless kind of stubbornness that in some way might be heroic, yet also senseless, repetitive, and maybe destructive.
What inspires the persistence of Jesus, and what he would pass on to us, is a vision of the Reign of God. He has a clear vision of what that must be like, a clear sense of his Father’s Will, and because of what he believes that future will hold, he remains persistent and constant, committed and undistracted by anything else or anything less.
My own opinion is that a lack of imagination, a lack of vision, more often causes people to get discouraged, give up, and quit than any real obstacle. When the cry goes up: “Why am I doing this?” it’s all over. I sometimes think that this is what gives parents such extraordinary patience and sustains them through the “terrible twos” and the “tween years”: a vision, a hope, of what that child may and can become. When that vision is clear and always inspiring, no one gives up.
This is the role of faith which Luke invites us to explore with that cry of Jesus at the end of the parable. It is faith that provides the vision and the hope. If there is no faith, there will be no reason to persevere and persist. More interesting and more specific is the issue that this widow raises in the face of a judge who is too much like the “justice” of our day and time. Justice is what she wants. Justice is the dream and vision of Jesus: justice for widows, justice for the poor, justice for the outcasts, helpless, and powerless of his time and ours!
There is another way of looking at this parable that I find disturbingly powerful and motivating. It is a vision that Pope Francis has begun stir in many people throughout this world. In this way of thinking, the Church is the widow. Her plea and her persistence in that plea is exactly what the church must be about in this world: a consistent and never ending insistence for justice in a world too accustomed to injustice and too comfortable to address and respond to the cry of those who wait for justice. The Gospel suggests to the church that Justice is our mission, and only by persistent demands will justice come. The Gospel suggests to us all that a vision, a dream, of what the Reign of God will be like can keep us from becoming discouraged at it’s slow realization. That vision is a time of Justice and Peace consistent with the teaching and preaching of Jesus Christ and his Church. With that vision, we could hardly ever give up or keep quiet.