The readings today help us to reflect on prayer. Why are we invited to turn to him with insistence? What is the meaning of prayer? To these questions Jesus responds with the parable of an unjust judge.
The duty of the judge should be to protect the weak and the defenceless, not being godless and unsympathetic. But this man is wicked. He fears neither God nor cares about people.
The widow is a symbol of the defenceless before abuse. She has been wronged and claims her rights, but no one listens to her.
She has just one card in her hand and plays it: she pesters the judge repeatedly, with obstinacy, at the cost of looking indiscreet.
After a long wait, the judge decides to solve the case, not because he realises his misbehaviour, but because he is tired and annoyed by the insistence of the woman. He says that the widow is troublesome; she pesters him and is becoming unbearable.
Who is the unjust judge? Who is the widow? To understand this we need to know the historical juncture in which the words are spoken.
We are in the 80s of the first century, when, in Asia Minor, a violent persecution starts. The emperor, Domitian, claims that all should adore him as a god. The pagan religious institutions have surrendered.
The Christians do not. They cannot—as the book of Revelation says (Revelation 13)—bow before the beast (the Domitian divo) and for this, they undergo harassment and discrimination.
Now it is clear who the widow in the parable is: it is the Church of Luke, the Church whose spouse is taken away; it is this community that awaits his coming, even though she may not know the day or the hour of his return and that each day, with insistence, she is pleading: “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).
The Lord is answering the dilemma of the Lukan community. He asks a rhetorical question, “And will God not give justice to his chosen ones who day and night cry to him!” followed by a peremptory affirmation, “Yes, I tell you, he will bring justice to them soon; even if he makes them wait for a long time.”
A major temptation of Christians is to become discouraged especially in the face of a long wait for the spouse who delays and tolerates injustice. Seeing the inexplicable tardiness of the judge, the widow could have backed off and despaired to her fate without justice.
The Lord warns the community against this danger represented by discouragement and resignation to the thought that the spouse is not coming to render justice.
He will surely come, but will he find his chosen ones ready to welcome him? To some, his tardiness could cause a loss of faith!
Here is the message of the parable: pray. Jesus has told us so, the evangelist says to inculcate the belief that it is necessary to pray always, without ceasing.
Prayer is being in constant conversation and consultation with the Lord. Keep the arms of prayer raised to the Lord until evening, until the battle against discouragement is won!
• Father Fernando Armellini SCJ
Translated by Father John Ledesma SDB
Abridged by Father Thomas Thennedyil CMF