by Rev. Robert Wagner
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Luke writes to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.
Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. He said, "There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being. And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, 'Render a just decision for me against my adversary.' For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, 'While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.'" The Lord said, "Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"
This Sunday’s parable about the widow and the unjust judge provides a powerful and somewhat elusive lesson about the importance of constant prayer. In it, Jesus describes a judge deciding a case between a widow and an unknown party. The widow appears to be innocent, for her appeal is not driven by vengeance or greed. She only wants justice.
While a judge’s duty is to render justice, Jesus provides details showing us that this judge is different. First, he is a man who does not respect his neighbor. Justice can be defined as giving each person his or her due. If you drive over your neighbor’s mailbox, the just thing to do is replace it. However, since this judge does not respect his neighbors, he does not care about making things right with them, nor does he care if they act justly with each other. To make matters worse, this judge also has no fear of God — no understanding of a righteous and powerful Being, no care for following His laws, and no desire to love Him or those created in His image.
As we can imagine, a judge without a care for God or man is dangerous indeed, for he has no motivation to act justly. He simply renders decisions based on how he can profit from them. He can be corrupted by bribes, for he does not care how others are affected by his choices.
The widow does not possess influence or wealth. She has nothing with which to bribe the judge. In the time of Jesus, she is recognized as one of the most helpless people in her culture, a woman with no source of income, no one to care for her, no one to fight for her cause. Thus, she faces an impossible situation: With nothing to offer, how can she persuade a corrupt judge to rule in her favor?
And yet, through tireless and persistent supplication, through making every effort to plead her cause, this is exactly what she does. We imagine her interrupting his daily routine at work, in the public square, even at his home. Her No. 1 priority is speaking with him face to face so he sees her sincerity and desire. Clearly, the judge finds the widow a terrible nuisance, but in the end her persistent pestering inspires him to justly render the decision in her favor.
Inspired by the success of this widow in the face of impossible odds, Jesus reminds us that we need to practice the same persistence in dealing with our heavenly Father. If a dishonest judge is moved by constant pleading, how much more would our loving God favor us when we call to Him day and night?
The elusive part of this parable is that we may be tempted to think that if we pray hard enough, we will receive any favor we ask of God. However, our experience has shown us this is not necessarily true. Our God is omnipotent and perfect. He knows what we need for salvation and He makes sure we receive it. Sometimes that means we receive what we pray for, and sometimes we do not. With the eyes of faith, however, we have peace and confidence knowing that God hears all of our prayers, and we receive exactly what we need according to His loving design.
The lesson of this parable is to “pray without becoming weary.” Our experience also shows us that the more consistently and fervently we pray, the more we are at peace, no matter what situation faces us. This peace comes from encountering through prayer our merciful God and His unbounded love for us. This steady prayer increases our faith, hope and love. It allows us to recognize God at work in our lives, and to increase our focus on eternal and everlasting truths.
St. Therese of Lisieux calls prayer a “simple look turned toward heaven.” Let us imitate the consistency and urgency of the widow in the parable by turning our gazes towards God time and again each and every day: pleading for help, thanking Him, praising Him, offering Him our trials and triumphs and everything in between. In this, we truly find peace.
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