Fr. Bob Writes – October 20, 2013

The gospel parable for this Sunday’s mass about the widow and the unrighteous judge is probably among the most misunderstood stories of Jesus. Many think that Jesus is saying that God is like the unrighteous judge, and that you have to keep on pleading with him to grant your prayer, because he doesn’t want to grant it, and so you have to wear him down with your persistence.

This is definitely NOT what Jesus is saying. This is a parable of contrast. Jesus is making the point that God is totally UNLIKE the judge in his parable. And so, if even an unrighteous judge will eventually grant a petition if you besiege him long enough, how much more will God, who is totally righteous, as well as totally loving, want to grant our prayers? There is a similar point made in another saying of Jesus in Matthew 7:11: “If you, evil as you are, yet know how to give good things to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him?” (italics mine).
I always urge my bible study groups to study the context of any given passage in Scripture in order to understand properly what is being said in it. In the case of the gospel parable this Sunday, we must note that Jesus has been talking in the previous chapter, chapter 17: 20- 37 about the end of the world, and the coming of the Son of Man (ie. Jesus) as judge.

If there is one thing we can all agree on about the state of the world today is that there is an awful lot of injustice going on in it. We long for this state of affairs to be brought to an end, for the righteous to be rewarded and the wicked to be punished. That will only come about finally when Jesus returns to bring about the kingdom of God in its fullness.

Jesus assumes that those who long for the kingdom of God will be crying out to God to bring it in as soon as possible. But is that in fact true? How many of us spend any length of time at prayer, urging God to bring the evil and injustice in the world to a speedy end? “Thy kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” is a petition familiar to us from the Lord’s Prayer. How many of us spend time praying this prayer, and praying it often, with all our heart? No wonder Jesus concludes the parable this Sunday with the words (spoken somewhat wryly, I am sure), “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” To pray for something implies faith for it to be answered. If we are not bothering to spend much time in praying for the end of the injustice of the world and the coming in of the kingdom of justice and truth and love, ie. the kingdom of God, what does that say about the state of our faith?