SET-1: Season of Kaitha
The persistent widow in this parable is a symbol of what a Christian must be in the spiritual life. Like the widow, we might face helplessness, exploitation, suffering, and injustice in this life. However, God who is the supreme judge will one day resolve our issues, provided we keep up our trust in him. People who have a terminal illness, disability, or continually facing negativity in life should not get discouraged. They should trust in the Lord like Lazarus in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). Let us remember the words of Jesus: “Blessed are you, when people insult you and persecute you and speak all kinds of evil against you because you are my followers. Be happy and glad, for a great reward is kept for you in heaven. This is how they persecuted the prophets who lived before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12).
(Luke 18:1) Jesus told them a parable to show them that they should pray continually and not be discouraged. (2) He said, “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. (3) In the same town was a widow who kept coming to him, saying: ‘Give me justice against my opponent.’ (4) For a time he refused, but finally he thought, ‘Even though I neither fear God nor care for what people say, (5) this widow bothers me so much that I will see that she gets justice; otherwise she will keep on coming and wear me out.’” (6) And Jesus said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. (7) Will not God do justice for his chosen ones who cry to him day and night even if he delays in answering them? (8) I tell you, he will speedily do them justice. Yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
(Luke 18:1) Jesus told them a parable to show them that they should pray continually and not be discouraged.
They should pray continually.
The Jews used to pray three times daily, four times on Sabbath, and five times on the feast of Yom Kippur (Sabbath of the Sabbaths). Jesus did not assign any time for prayer. Instead, he said we must pray always. For Jesus, besides personal, family, and church prayer, we must base all our activities on prayer. Payer without mercy is meaningless (Matthew 9:13). They should go together. Our works should be towards fulfilling the Lord’s prayer: to make the Lord’s name revered (Holy be your name), to establish the Kingdom of God (Thy Kingdom come), and to accomplish the will of God (Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven).
Not be discouraged
The Evangelist Luke gives the purpose of the parable at its beginning. It presupposes that some people get exhausted after a long awaiting of unanswered prayers. They might stop praying, lose faith, or even commit suicide. Such people are “like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain poured, the rivers flooded, and the wind blew against that house, and down it went with a mighty crash.” (Matthew 7:26-27).
The early church went through persecution from the Jews and Romans. At least some members of the persecuted church felt like their prayers were in vain and that they were not getting justice on time. However, they had to persist in faith, hope, and charity. Their persistence was necessary for the existence of the church. They had to defend their faith until death or until the second coming of Christ. God would do justice and bring peace in time. It happened with a divine intervention of the Emperor Constantine’s conversion in 312 A.D. He stopped the Christian persecution in the Roman empire.
This parable applies for innocent people misunderstood as criminals or as evil doers. The society, the media, and the legal system might mistreat them. The prayers of these innocent might seem unanswered. There would come a time when Jesus will provide justice. Those making false accusations will have conversion, or God would bring them to justice.
There are people who pray for a long time for the conversion of their spouse, child, or anyone dear to them. They might wonder why God delays in answering prayers for a worthy cause. St. Monica persisted in her prayer for 17 years for the conversion of her son Augustine and her pagan husband Patricius. Finally, God answered her prayer and even raised Monica and her son Augustine as saints. A Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28) kept on seeking the mercy of Jesus, and she got it. A sick person at the Bethesda pool waited 38 years for a divine intervention without losing hope and he got healing from Jesus (John 5:1-15). Another woman who had a hemorrhage continued treatment and prayer for twelve years. Jesus healed her (Mark 25:5-34). During the public ministry of Jesus, he answered the long-awaited prayers of many sick people. His second coming would give consolation for all who are suffering now.
(2) He said, “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people.
In a certain town there was a judge.
Jesus presented an unjust and secular judge to contrast with God’s heavenly justice. This character must be a civil judge who was part of a corrupt social and legal system. Herod might have appointed him in a village as part of the Roman administration.
He is not a Jewish judge. For Jews, one person alone could not pronounce a judgement. The minimum number of judges required was three in villages of less than 120 men. If the number was higher in the village, they had more judges in the team. Thus, there were three classes of courts: (1) The Great Sanhedrin in Jerusalem comprising over 70 was the supreme court (2) the Lesser Sanhedrin of 23 judges, (3) the Court of Three or Seven. The head (nasi) of the Sanhedrin or its three members had to authorize and ordain judges. Such judges would be God-fearing Jews. Verdict of a single Jewish judge had the value of an advice only.
Exodus 18: 13-27 describes Israel’s minor judges’ qualifications. They should be “God-fearing and reliable men who hate a bribe.” (Exodus 18:21). The judge whom the widow approached had just the opposite of these qualifications because he did not fear God and had no respect for humans. So, even if the judge in the parable was a Jew, he did not meet the standards of the Holy Scripture.
Neither feared God
Fear of God in the Biblical sense is the reverence to God who is our Father. As a Father we originate from Him, and we are under his constant care and protection. The fear of punishment happens because of our lack of reverence or unfaithfulness to God. The Israelites had to practice “the fear of the Lord” by keeping all the statutes and commandments of the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:2). The judge in the parable did not fear God. His irresponsible behavior and negligence in duty reflects that.
Nor respected any human being
All people are children of God in His image and likeness. Though all differ in birth and life situations, all are dear to God. God calls us to love, respect, and support one another, especially the poor. Proverbs 14:31 says: “Oppression of the weak insults their Creator, but he is honored by those who have compassion on the needy.” Concerning the judges of Israel, God instructed: “You shall not bend the law or show partiality. You shall not accept bribes because bribes blind the eyes of the wise and subvert the cause of the righteous.” (Deuteronomy 16:19). The judge in the parable was not respecting any of these commandments of the Lord.
(3) In the same town was a widow who kept coming to him, saying: ‘Give me justice against my opponent.’
Another character Jesus presented was a widow who was a symbol of helplessness in the Biblical times. Compared to any other books written, the Holy Bible gives importance to the care and protection of widows. God commanded the nation of Israel to take particular care for widows, along with others who need their protection. God commanded through Moses: “You shall not harm the widow or the orphan. If you do harm them and they cry out to me, I will definitely hear them, and my anger will blaze and I will kill you with the sword, and your own wives will become widows and your own children orphans.” (Exodus 22:21-23). Psalm 68:5 presents God as the defender of the widows. God asked the Israelites to give full participation for widows in the celebrations of the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles along with their children, slaves, Levites, resident alien, and orphans (Deut. 16:11-14).
Jesus, the Son of God, also gave exceptional care for the widows: He raised the dead son of a widow in the city of Nain (Luke 7:11-17). He spoke high of a poor widow who could offer only two small copper coins in the Temple treasury. “But a poor widow also came and dropped in two small coins, the equivalent of a penny. Then Jesus called his disciples and said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who gave offerings. For all of them gave out of their abundance, but she gave from her poverty and put in everything she had, her very living.’” (Mark 12:42-44). Jesus criticized the Scribes “who devour widows’ houses (Luke 20:47). While dying on the cross, Jesus entrusted his widowed mother to John’s care (John 19:25-27).
A widow who kept coming to him
Since the judge neglected justice to the widow, she had to keep going to the judge because she could not find any other help. She knew that her persistence was the only tool she could use to win justice. The helpless widows used to get sympathy and public support when they cried for help. The corrupt judge was also like her offender, doing injustice to her by his negligence. He was committing the sin of omission.
Against my opponent
In our spiritual life, we are like the helpless widows and the adversary is the evil one who haunts us to destroy our spiritual life. We cannot solve the problem by ourselves. Only Jesus can resolve the issue. We are waiting for the second coming of Christ when the adversary’s destruction will be complete. We need to keep praying until that happens.
(4) For a time he refused, but finally he thought, ‘Even though I neither fear God nor care for what people say…’
The judge kept his adamant behavior for a long time. He acknowledged to himself that he did not fear God or the public opinion. Such sinners are worse than those who commit iniquities out of ignorance.
(5) This widow bothers me so much that I will see that she gets justice; otherwise she will keep on coming and wear me out.
Though a secular person with no respect for God or humanity, the judge had to oblige to the widow for his own peace. After a long inaction, he did justice to the widow because of her persistence for her rights. He feared that his constant negligence and the widow’s persistence would end up a “strike” against him from the public or from his authorities. If the widow had given up her attempts, she would have been the loser. Eventually the justice prevailed. The same is true in our spiritual life. If we give up our faith amid our sufferings, thinking God ignores our prayers, we would be the losers. We must wait for God’s time to come.
(6) And Jesus said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says.”
Jesus called his listeners’ attention to the judge’s decision. “Unjust judge” is an irony. The one who had to punish the dishonest was himself a dishonest person.
(7) Will not God do justice for his chosen ones who cry to him day and night even if he delays in answering them?
Jesus contrasts a worst judge with God, the supreme goodness, and a judge of the judges. God is the most merciful and just. He is quick to answer. God allows the wheat and weed to grow together so an early destruction of sinners will not affect the good (Matthew 13:24-30). He is waiting for the conversion of sinners so he can save them. “‘Do I want the death of the sinner?’ says the Lord. ‘Do I not rather want him to turn from his ways and live?’” (Ezekiel 18:23). God will do justice in time for those who deserve his mercy. We should not give up hope because we feel like God is ignoring our pleas. It is not delay from the part of God, but a period of test for us. The end will be favorable for the faithful who would keep up the trust in God even amid continued trials.
(8) “I tell you, he will speedily do them justice. Yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
He will speedily do them justice.
When there is a calamity or suffering, every minute is long. The persecuted church and her members were eagerly waiting for the Lord’s return to save them from the tyranny of persecution. God later saved the church through the Roman Emperor Constantine’s conversion and the support of his successors. It was a miraculous intervention of God at an unpredicted time.
Will he find faith on earth?
We must continue faithfulness to God in good times and tough times. Our baptismal covenant with God is like a wedding covenant. It is life long, and we cannot dissolve it because of change of health, wealth, or life situation. Christ will reward our persistence in our relationship with God at his second coming.
The background of this parable is clear from the last part of chapter 17 of St. Luke. Jesus was teaching on the “Day of the Son of Man,” when he will come to judge the world. “As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be on the day the Son of Man comes. Then people ate and drank; they took husbands and wives. But on the day Noah entered the ark, the flood came and destroyed them all. It will be the same as it was in the days of Lot: people ate and drank, they bought and sold, planted and built. But on the day Lot left Sodom, God made fire and sulfur rain down from heaven which destroyed them all. So will it be on the day the Son of Man is revealed.” (Luke 17:26-30). We should continue our faithfulness to God until his return or our physical death, when he will establish justice for the just and punishment for the adversary in the last judgement.