Twenty-Ninth Sunday of the Year
Luke uses two parables of Jesus to emphasise the necessity of persistence in prayer: one about a male petitioner; one female. We have already seen Luke’s tendency to tell these double stories, maybe because Jesus had both male and female disciples; certainly in the early church there were many women present. We had the story about the man insisting that his friend get up and give him a loaf of bread on the 17th Sunday of the year; today it is the turn of the persistent widow. Widows in the society of the time were vulnerable, socially, economically and emotionally – there was no widow’s pension available! The Law of Israel constantly called on the people to be good to the widow, the orphan and the stranger. The judge in today’s story should have known the Law inside out and therefore should have helped her without being asked. But he, as the parable tells us, had neither respect for God or human beings. Probably he was willing to do justice only for those who could pay him handsomely, something this widow could not do. So she plays the only card she has: she pesters him until he relents.
What Jesus praises in the widow is her energy and persistence, telling us that this is exactly the kind of attitude we are to have in prayer. We tend to expect instant answers to our prayers, just as we look for an instant response to everything in life nowadays. Like Moses in the first reading, we need to practise persevering prayer. We can do so day-by-day by praying the Our Father. As we constantly pray for God’s Kingdom to come, we are really asking that God’s justice will come: the coming of the kingdom is the bringing in of God’s justice to the world, justice for whoever is “the widow, the orphan and the stranger” in today’s society.
St. Martin de Porres had that sense of perseverance. The picture is taken from the cover of a book entitled Martin de Porres: A Saint of the Americas by Brian Pierce, O.P. He says of Martin: “Martin was no dummy. He was so on fire with love that he could face his enemies with patience until they finally surrendered to the power of love. This is the key to the practice of non-violence. Long before Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr., systematized the philosophy and practice of non-violence, what Gandhi called ahimsa, Martin had already learned the basics from his dialogues with the gentle Christ on the cross.” (p. 66).
Sr Celine Mangan O.P