Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’”
And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
In Luke’s gospel, Jesus preaches several parables about persistence in prayer.The one we hear today, the parable of the unjust judge, is definitely the strangest. With images that border on the irreverent, he compares our prayers to a widow’s tireless petitioning of a corrupt judge. Some scholars say that Luke’s gospel records vestiges of Jesus’ sense of humor. They think he sometimes used lighthearted images to reveal deep truths or address burning anxieties. This is one of the passages scholars often cite as an example of Jesus’ humor.
In it, Jesus strikes at the heart of a deep anxiety. Why does it take God so long to answer prayer? Why do the innocent suffer, the just encounter misfortune, and the meek endure continuous humiliation? Why does it take God so long to set things right?
Jesus offers no comforting answer. Instead, he gives a plan of action: pray. Pray like a poor widow who has nothing left to lose. Pray like a woman whose sense of justice compels her to fight on. Pray like a person who believes that God is operating in unseen ways to undo the damage sin has done to the world.
Like athletes who grow stronger by pushing themselves harder every day persistent prayer pushes us to deeper faith, especially when God’s answer is delayed. Today Jesus challenges us to ask ourselves: How can we strengthen our faith through persistent prayer? Is there an abandoned dream or a forsaken relationship that we can take up anew, and with persistence like today’s widow, storm heaven with our prayers for its fulfillment?
—Fr. Michael Simone, S.J. is beginning his ministry as instructor in Old Testament Studies at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry
Lord, you tell us to “pray always and not to lose heart.” Sometimes when our prayers go unanswered and we simply cannot see the dawn of hope, we question the value of prayer. Yet if we persist in prayer, we discover that the ultimate answer to all prayer is relationship with you.
Lord, we trust that prayer transforms us for that which weighs us down becomes the impetus for drawing us closer to you. And in this unity of Spirit we know that at the most elemental level, all will be well. And so we pray the words you spoke from the cross, “Into your hands I commend my Spirit.”
—The Jesuit Prayer TeamPlease share the Good Word with your friends!