October 17, 2010
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 18: 1-8
The classic way to stay in touch with God is prayer. Small
wonder then that Luke writes so insistently about prayer when he shows
us how to accompany Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem. Although the
ideal prayer for Christians is praise and thanksgiving, there is also a
place for prayers of petition, as today's gospel parable makes quite
The story-line of the parable is clear and compelling. In
ancient Israel, widows were often listed among the more vulnerable
members of society. And it appears that the widow of the parable has in
fact been defrauded of her property by unscrupulous persons. Her only
recourse is the local judge. But he has long since abandoned his
covenant morality and is swayed only by bribes--something that the
destitute widow cannot provide.
This unprincipled judge is proud of his freedom from the demands
of true religion, Moreover, he is happy to proclaim this false freedom
on every occasion. (He may remind us of the agnostic physician in
Bernanos' Diary of a Country Priest). However, the persistence of the
widow gradually wears him down and finally causes him to grant her
justice. The lesson drawn by Jesus is crystal clear: How much more
likely is God, the most just of all judges, ready to grant our requests
for justice when we are treated unfairly!
The point of this parable is probably more subtle than we may at
first surmise. Jesus is not just telling us that we must doggedly
persevere in prayer even when no answer seems to be provided. That is
true, no doubt, but the real point here concerns our attitude toward
God. For many of us, God seems so remote and so insensitive to our pleas
that we may feel that he is not that different from the judge in the
parable. As a matter of experience, our God does not always seem ready
to give us the justice that we seek.
The deeper lesson of the parable is concerned, therefore, with
our experience of the reality and presence of God in our lives. It is
faith alone that enables us to experience God as One who is exceedingly
good and who loves us very much. We will want to persist in our prayers
to him, not just because we need his help, but primarily because we want
simply to stay in touch with this wonderful Person, who loves us
unconditionally. In the long run, this loving God will give us all that
we need...and much more.
Our relationship with God is not unlike that of children who
expect their parents to respond positively to every request they have.
But good and loving parents know that these requests are not always in
the best interest of their children. I suspect that many children would
quit school or eat only junk food if their parents would allow it. The
important thing for all concerned is to maintain a loving and trusting
contact, in spite of occasional bumps in the road. Today's parable
reminds us that this is even more true of our relationship with God.
Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.