October 17, 2010
ORDINARY 29 (C)
Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? - Luke 18: 7
Being mindful that Jesus’ parables are designed to reveal to us something about the nature of God & His Kingdom, what might this one show us? The judge could hardly be the God figure since he neither “fears God nor respects man.” Further, God is not Someone we can badger into changing His mind to give us what we want.
There is a more fruitful & less obvious – if not unexpected – way to understand this Gospel. Why not see the widow as the image of God? Once one reverses characters, a whole new perspective emerges. When the widow is seen as a God-like figure, then the message becomes clearer: Anyone who resists injustice, faces it, names it, & denounces it until things are set right, is acting as God does.
Powerless as Jesus on the cross who defeats the power of death, the widow achieves victory for the right. Through her persistence the widow becomes a Gandhi or Martin Luther King figure. Against all odds she will endure until justice is done.
So the parable is not about strategies to wear down a reluctant God with non-stop prayer, but it’s about justice, about we who act like God whenever we persistently seek, often against terrible odds, to have justice done. To update the story, it would be about those who hold self-serving politician’s feet to the fire, who work to have children insured & free of violence, who uncover the greed & corruption that siphons off money from the poor, who work to improve education, & break down barriers that separate people.
A black man & his family were travelling through the South in the 1950’s. They stopped to rest in a park along the highway. His daughters spotted a swing set on a playground in the park & pulled their father toward the swing. They were too young to read the signs that said “for whites only.” Sadly but patiently the man told his daughters they could not play there & explained why. It was their first encounter with racism & they burst into tears. So, much as his mother had done for him as a child, the father gathered his children into a warm embrace & said to them “Listen, you little girls are somebody. In fact, you are so important & so valuable to God & so powerful that it takes the governor & the whole state police force to keep you girls off those swings.”
One day because another widow named Rosa Parks would persist, those girls would grow up to see justice done & the signs taken down & God would be present. So, once more, the judge is anyone who thwarts justice & the woman of our gospel is anyone who acts like God in the pursuit of justice.
This woman was formidable. One wonders, though, if she was the only one to take on the judge, the only one to hunger & thirst for justice. She shouldn’t be. She should have us for company. It’s just possible that THAT is what this gospel is really all about. AMEN!