Gospel Reflection for 29th Sunday Ordinary Time Year C – October 16th 2016
Jesus told his disciples a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. ‘There was a judge in a certain town’ he said ‘who had neither fear of God nor respect for man. In the same town there was a widow who kept on coming to him and saying, “I want justice from you against my enemy!” For a long time he refused, but at last he said to himself, “Maybe I have neither fear of God nor respect for man, but since she keeps pestering me I must give this widow her just rights, or she will persist in coming and worry me to death”.’
And the Lord said ‘You notice what the unjust judge has to say? Now will not God see justice done to his chosen who cry to him day and night even when he delays to help them? I promise you, he will see justice done to them, and done speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?’
The widow knows what she wants and what she is entitled to. She comes for justice and the judge has an obligation to her. She knows her rights! Much of what people get upset about in their lives are their rights. When we work for the homeless, we are working for people’s rights, as in education, health care, employment and freedom of movement and freedom of religion, freedom from slavery and torture, the right to life at all ages of life, among others. The church promotes these rights and links with movements for such rights. Feeding the hungry is not an act of charity, it is an act of justice.
And the judge. He was meant to be the defender of the widow in his culture. Somehow he had become more concerned with saving his own skin and reputation than with his integrity. Like a judge hearing a case that has gone on for many years to establish compensation, he begins to work on another level – the insistence of the woman, and noticing that maybe she had rights after all.
The delay in helping touched God also, and his wish for justice, then as now, is compromised by human injustice. Maybe this is more a parable about injustice than of prayer. But it is also an encouragement to pray: ‘our power is prayer and the prayer of the humble is God’s weakness. The Lord is weak only in this: he is weak in the face of the prayer of his people’ (Pope Francis, November 2013). In our work for justice, integrity and fairness, let’s also pray for it.
Maybe this week read the thirty articles of UN Universal Declaration of Human-Rights
Lord may your kingdom come, near and far away.
Fr Donal Neary SJ is editor of the Sacred Heart Messenger