Luke 18: 1-8
This is a fascinating parable, it pits a widow against a dishonest judge. The widow is persistent in her desire for the judge to make a decision in her case. She has waited a long time, and he continues to put her off, so she decides to pester him until he makes a decision. He makes a decision because her persistence is disrupting his lifestyle, and even has him wonder if she might act violently against him. These are not the purest motives for making a decision, but they were effective. The judge showed neither love nor concern for the widow. Jesus points out that if this judge can answer the woman’s request with a wrong attitude and motive, how much more will God respond to our pleas for help.
The lesson for us is three-fold; be persistent in prayer, and God responds to our needs out of love, and a teaching on how we should respond to the needs of others. There are saints who are known to have great patience and persistence in placing their needs before God. St. Monica, the mother of Saint Augustine, prayed for the conversion of her son for seventeen years. After the death of Mother Theresa it was learned from her letters that she had suffered a long dry period of faith for forty years. The secular media saw this struggle as making her unworthy of the praise given to her, let alone Sainthood. Her canonization last month is a testimony that in the midst of weakness and not feeling God’s presence, her persistence in prayer and spreading the message are signs of true sanctity. These are two different types of persistence, and both show the importance in being persistent in our faith.
There are both needs that we have, and struggles in our faith that can affect our relationship with God. One response is to minimize our faith or even to walk away, the other is to be persistent. To be persistent is to never lose trust that God is listening to us, and that in his time and way our prayers will be answered. Persistence in faith takes moving beyond faith as a feeling, to faith as a gift from God. The letter to the Hebrews describes faith as, “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” It is the persistence in praying, trusting that God is there.
The second lesson in the parable is that God responds to our needs out of love. God does not act out of fear, obligation, or to get us quiet; God acts out of love for us. He knows our hearts, and he knows more than we know, what it is we need that will bring us true and lasting happiness. God knows the whole picture of our lives, while we live one frame at a time. This is not to minimize the anxiety or pain that our struggles might bring us, but it puts into perspective that in the midst of these, God is lovingly present.
The third lesson comes from comparing the unjust judge to God. When people come to us with a need which one of these are we? Are we like the judge and put things off, only to help when we are tired of someone pestering us? Are we like God who looks upon the one in need with love? Hopefully we will work to respond as God does, out of love. May these three lessons help us in our persistence in prayer, our faith in God’s love for us, as well as in our helping others out of love.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.