Kaitha Seventh Sunday

The judge and the widow. Luke 18:1-8

INTRODUCTION

The persistent widow in this parable is a symbol of what a Christian is supposed to be in 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 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 they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12).

Bible Text

The Parable of the Persistent Widow.
(1) Then he told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. He said, (2) “There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being. (3) And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, ‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’ (4) 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, (5) because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.’” (6) The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. (7) 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? (8) 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?”

Interpretation

(1) Then he told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. He said,

TO PRAY ALWAYS
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 specifically assign any time for prayer. Instead he said, we must pray always. For Jesus, besides personal, family, and church prayer, all our activities and services must be prayer based. Payer without mercy is meaningless for Jesus (Matthew 9:13). They should go together. Our work should be service oriented 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).

WITHOUT BECOMING WEARY
The Evangelist Luke gives the purpose of the parable at its beginning. It presupposes that some people get exhausted after long awaiting of unanswered prayers. They might stop praying, losing faith, or even commit suicide. Such people are “like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:26-27).

The early church went through persecution from Jews and Romans. At least some members of the suffering and tortured 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 survival of the church. They had to defend their faith until their death or until the second coming of Christ.  God would do justice and bring peace in due time. It happened with a divine intervention when the Christian persecution in the Roman empire was ended through conversion and reformation of the Emperor Constantine in 312 A.D.

This parable can also be applied for innocent people who are misunderstood as criminals or evil doers. The society, the media, and the legal system might treat them badly. The prayers of these innocent might seem unanswered. There would come a time when justice would be established and those responsible for falsely accusing them be converted or brought to the justice of God.

There are people who pray for 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 good cause. St. Monica persisted in her prayer for around 17 years for the conversion of her son Augustine and her pagan husband Patricius. Finally, God answered the prayer and even raising her and her son as saints. A Canaanite woman in (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). A woman who had hemorrhage continued treatment and prayer for her healing for twelve years (Mark 25:5-34). She also got the healing from Jesus. During the public ministry of Jesus, he answered the long-awaited prayers of many sick people. His second coming would provide consolation for all who are suffering now.

(2) “There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being.

A JUDGE IN A CERTAIN TOWN
Jesus presented an unjust and secular judge to contrast with the heavenly justice of God. This judge that Jesus took as a typical character in the parable must be a civil judge who was part of a corrupt social and legal system. He could be appointed in a village by Herod as part of the Roman administration.

For Jews, one person alone could not make judgement. The minimum number of judges required was three in small villages of less than 120 men. If the number was higher in the village, they were judged by a Sanhedrin or court of 23 judges. The Great Sanhedrin in Jerusalem consisting of 71 was the supreme court of Jews. Thus, there were three classes of courts: The Great Sanhedrin, the Lesser Sanhedrin, and the Court of Three or Seven.  The head (nasi) of the Sanhedrin or its three members had to duly authorize and ordain judges. Such judges would be God fearing Jews. Verdict of a single Jewish judge was considered only as an advice and had no juridical value.

The qualification of minor judges of Israel are described in Exodus 18: 13-27. The judges should be “able and God-fearing men, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain.” (Exodus 18:21). The judge whom the widow approached was 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 FEARD 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 the lack of reverence or unfaithfulness to God. The method of “the fear of the Lord” is by keeping all the statutes and commandment of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 6:2). The judge in the parable did not fear God and so it was reflected in his irresponsible behavior and negligence in duty.

NOR RESPECTED ANY HUMAN BEING
All people are children of God in His image and likeness. Though all differ in birth and life situations because of reasons beyond human perception, all are dear to God. All are called to love, respect, and support one another, especially the poor. Proverbs 14:31 says: “He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker, But he who is gracious to the needy honors Him.” Concerning the judges of Israel, God instructed: “You must not distort justice: you shall not show partiality; you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes even of the wise and twists the words even of the just.” (Deuteronomy 16:19). The judge in the parable was not respecting any of these commandments of the Lord.

(3) And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, ‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’

WIDOW
Another character that 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 special care for widows along with others who need their care. God commanded through Moses: “You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely listen to their cry. My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword; then your own wives will be widows, and your 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 celebration 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 special 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. "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on." (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).

USED TO COME TO HIM
Since the judge did not do justice to the widow, she had to keep coming to the judge because she could not find any other means of relief. She knew that her persistence was the only tool she could use to win justice for her. Usually, the helpless widows used to get sympathy and public support when they cried for help. The corrupt judge also was like her offender doing injustice to her by his negligence. He was committing a sin of omission.

AGAINST MY ADVERSARY
In our spiritual life, we are in the position of the helpless widow 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 destruction of the adversary will be complete. We need to constantly keep praying until that happens.

(4) 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,

The judge kept his adamant behavior for a long time. He acknowledged himself that he did not honor God or fear punishment from God and had no respect for fellow human beings. Such sinners are worse than those who commit iniquities out of ignorance.

(5) because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.’”

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 was afraid that his constant negligence and 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. In the long run, justice prevails. The same is true in our spiritual life. If we give up our faith amid our sufferings, thinking that God ignores our prayers, we would be the losers. We must be patient for God’s time to come.

(6) The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.

Jesus called the attention of his listeners to the decision of the judge. “Dishonest judge” is an irony. The one who had to punish the dishonest was himself a dishonest man.

(7) 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?

A worst judge is contrasted with God, the supreme goodness and judge of judges. God is the most merciful and just. He is not slow to answer. He allows the wheat and weed grow together so that the good won’t be affected by an early destruction of sinners (Matthew 13:24-30). He might also be patiently waiting for the conversion of sinners so that they also might be saved.  "’Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘rather than that he should 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 to be over for us. The end will be favorable for the faithful who would be keeping up the trust in God even amid continued trials.

(8) 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?”

JUSTICE IS DONE FOR THEM SPEEDILY
When there is calamity and 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 conversion of the Roman Emperor Constantine and his successors. It was a miraculous intervention of God at an unpredicted time.

WILL HE FIND FAITH ON EARTH?
Faithfulness to God is to be continued in good times and bad times. Our baptismal covenant with God is like a wedding covenant. It is life long and cannot be dissolved because of change of health, wealth, or life situation. Our persistence in our relationship will be rewarded appropriately at the second coming of Christ.

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 it will be in the days of the Son of Man; they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage up to the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Similarly, as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building; on the day when Lot left Sodom, fire and brimstone rained from the sky to destroy them all. So it will be on the day the Son of Man is revealed.” (Luke 17:26-30). We need to continue our faithfulness to God awaiting his return or our physical death when justice will be established for the just and punishment for the adversary in the final judgement or particular judgement.

 Message

1. Jesus wants us “to pray always.” (Luke 18:1). That means, we need to make our life a constant act of prayer by our personal prayer, family prayer, church prayer and dedication of our life as a sacrificial offering to God and to fellow human beings.

2. Jesus wants us to pray without getting discouraged because of unanswered prayers. We pray that God’s will be done because God knows best, and not us.

3. The lady in this parable was weak as a woman 2000 years ago, and helpless because she was a widow. Some people exploited her and the irresponsible judge did injustice to her by ignoring her constant requests for justice. Like the widow in the parable, we are spiritually weak and helpless. We need Jesus, the final judge of the universe, to do justice for us. Let us keep up our faith until the second coming of Christ when Jesus will deliver us completely from the evil one.

4. The unjust judge in the parable is no comparison to God; but is a contrast to God. The God of justice tolerates the unjust allowing them time for conversion. The Lord will one day come in glory to judge the living and the dead. We are waiting for that day of final judgement. Let us pray and work for the place of honor in the Lord’s kingdom in heaven.

5. The unjust judge who was neglecting the right of a widow was committing a serious sin of omission. Only he could do justice for her and he was avoiding her because of his lack of fear of God and respect for fellow humans. Do we also commit such sins of omission?

6. The widow finally got justice because of her persistence. If she had given up her hope or repeated attempts, she would have been the loser. Though we might be suffering for no mistake of our own, as in the case of Job, there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. For some, the suffering or disability can be lifelong. However, there is no suffering or disability in the life after death of a faithful Christian. So, we should not give up our faith; instead we need to trust in God, even if we feel like we are unjustly suffering in this world.

7. This parable is to be understood in the background of Jesus’ teaching on his second coming. Even if we are suffering like the widow in the parable with no hope or relief, we must be patient and keep up our faith until our prayers are answered in this life, and if not, until the end of our life or until the second coming of Christ.