by Fr. Damien Giap, O.Praem.
In Luke 18:1-8, we may ask the question: Who’s the widow and who’s the judge? It may seem easy and straightforward. We’re the widow and God is the judge. If we pray for something long enough and hard enough, we’ll be able to wear God down and He will become exasperated with us and say, “OK, enough already! Please stop! What do you want? I’ll give it to you. Now, please – be quiet!” That’s what this parable is about, isn’t it?
First, that doesn’t seem to be how prayer works. The thought of badgering God until we get what we want seems a bit selfish. Second, this doesn’t seem to accord with my experience of God. I don’t believe He gets so exasperated with us, that He ends up giving us what we want like a parent spoiling a child just to get some peace and quiet.
Perhaps for a better understanding of this parable, we should just listen to the key phrases: the widow says, “Grant me justice against my opponent.” The judge is called “unjust” by Jesus. Later the judge says, “I will grant her justice.” Jesus says, “And will not God grant justice?” “He will quickly grant justice to them…”
Throughout the Old Testament, there is a special place for widows in society: in fact, the spiritual health of society was judged by how the widows amongst them were treated. Whenever God gives instructions on how society should be, He says that the rights of widows must be defended. In the psalms, God is described as the defender of widows.
To think about us as the widow and God as the judge Who can be worn down into saying ‘Yes’ by our constant barrage of prayers doesn’t seem accurate. It doesn’t accord with Christian experience. It doesn’t accord with an orthodox doctrine of God. So what is this parable teaching us about prayer?
Perhaps those who are suffering today, those who are grieving, those who are neglected, those who are sick: they symbolize the plight of the widow, crying out to be heard as it were. Maybe we’re not the widow at all, perhaps we are the judge and we need to hear the cry of our neighbor, those who are suffering in our midst.
In Matthew, Jesus says that He doesn’t just identify with the poor and needy but that we can actually find Him in the poor and needy. “For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was a stranger and you invited Me in. I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me.” So we are the judge and God is the widow, found in those cast aside and forgotten, those who are simply not important to us.
The parable is about God crying out to us, pleading with us to do something to alleviate the pain and suffering of our neighbor. Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, may we pray unceasingly for the needs of those around us.
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