The 29th in Ordinary Time – 20 October 2019
Lectionary Readings: Ex 17:8-13, Ps 121:1-8, 2 Tim 3:14-4:2, Lk 18:1-9
In today’s parable of the unjust judge and the persistent widow we witness both the power of prayer and the call to justice. Prayer as we often acknowledge, is the lifting of our minds and hearts to God and therefore instructs us as to how we are to act in all of our encounters. This parable, viewed either religiously or socially, speaks of how we can persevere in prayer and yet deal with all the threatening evils that we are faced within our lives – oppression, racism, corruption, abuse of power and the list goes on!
The prophets were insistent that the people know their need for God, live the Covenant faithfully and be in right relations with others. They spoke of God’s special concern for the poor, the weak and the need to combat injustice in society. “Let justice roll down like waters,” Amos, the prophet, proclaimed (5:24). We know that the test of any nation is how their weakest members are treated! The prophetic call insisted that our lives need to be a flow of relationships to be experienced within our family, our community, in friendship, and hospitality. “Live justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with your God.”(Hosea 6:8)
In stark contrast in this parable, there is the one who does not fear God and the one whose faith in God is her life. The widow, a powerless figure now comes before the judge to ask for justice and he dismisses her. However, she is not deterred by this. Even though viewed as the lowest in society, she knows in her heart that she is not worthless. She has value because she is created in God’s image and she prays asking for help and protection as we read in today’s psalm, “I lift up my eyes to the hills from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord.” (Ps.121) This woman does not lose heart for she knows in whom she has placed her faith. That relationship has grounded her. The Hebrew word for widow means, “one who has no voice” and yet in this story her voice is her hope!
At first, the judge is unmoved and refuses to hear her. Soon though, he realizes that she will never give up. All that this woman seeks is justice and should not a judge dispense justice? In all of this we see that he only wants the pretense of justice. We need to question, has injustice become such a habit for him that it has demoralized him? In reality, he can no longer act with justice! The widow has unmasked his injustice and he is now forced to hear her! At this point, who is more vulnerable – the widow or the judge?
God is always attentive to those who pray and who work to combat injustice. Such perseverance is hard to sustain! Injustice is ingrained throughout our social structure and even though it can be exposed and at times even overcome, it cannot always be unmasked. The widow has given us a tremendous example; her heart is in unison with God. Not to lose heart means more than just persevering in difficult situations but it is to move forward in fidelity to the path of peace. “God suffuses the hearts of those who pray with justice, and then with empowered hearts they bring this justice into the affairs of earth. God does not intervene as a separate agent of activity and bring a justice to the human world that humans themselves cannot bring.” (Shea 291)
For Reflection and Discussion:  Is my prayer a strength for me and for others? Do I know the widow’s trust and energy  Are our personal spirituality and social justice two sides of the same coin?  What do I do when faced with injustice?
Bibliography: John Shea, The Spiritual Wisdom of the Gospels for Christian Preachers and Teachers (Collegeville, 2005).
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