Jerusalem Bible © 1966 by Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd and Doubleday & Company Inc.
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?’
Did you know?
Points of interest and Catholic lore
- In ancient Israel, according to the Law, justice should have been available to all who sought it, not only to the rich or powerful. Judges were appointed and they sat ‘at the city gate’ making themselves available to any who needed a judgment. The prophets often criticised the corruption that was sometimes associated with this office. Judgment would go in favour of those who could pay a bribe!
- Under Jewish Law, there was an especial requirement to look after the widow and the orphan, who did not have a man to speak for them.
- Luke’s Gospel was written at a time when believers were suffering for their faith. They too may have been wondering if God heard their prayers.
Exploring the Word
It is unusual for an evangelist to be so explicit about the meaning of a parable, but here Luke tells us that this parable is ‘about the need to pray continually and never lose heart’. It is quite likely that those who listened to Jesus tell this story were very familiar with judges who were a law unto themselves and who did not dispense justice according to the demands of God and of Jewish Law. Yet even these will be persuaded to act in the face of persistence. As ever with Luke, it is not the rich and powerful who prevail but the poor or the weak—in this case a widow. How much more, then, will God act? He is not like the wicked judge. He will hear the persistent cry, especially of the poor, and will not delay in answering. The real test of our faith in all this is to accept that God may answer our prayers in ways we do not expect or even desire. Prayer does not equate with making demands of God. Instead it is openness to the presence of God in our lives and a willingness to accept his demands of us, whatever they may be.
- What things are you persistent in?
- What does this indicate about what is important to you?
- Is prayer important to you? How do you pray?
Opportunities for group discussion and personal prayer
- How do you understand the ‘need to pray continually and never lose heart’?
- What cries do you think go up to God day and night in our present age?
- What would our world look like if justice were done?
- Discuss the terms ‘fear of God’ and ‘respect for people’. What do think they mean in this day and age? Discuss some examples of the lack of ‘fear of God’ and ‘respect for people’ that we may see around us. How are you being called to respond?
- Spend time contemplating what ‘fear of God’ and ‘respect for people’ means today. Practise ‘fear of God’ and ‘respect for people’ this week in as many ways as you can.
- Use the response from today’s psalm as your prayer this week:
Our help is from the Lord
who made heaven and earth.
Sharing the tradition
A closer look at the Scripture of the day, to see how it makes more explicit God’s word to us through the teachings of Jesus Christ
‘I must give this widow her just rights.’ The quest for human rights has long been a cornerstone of the Church’s social teaching. ‘The Church sees in these rights the extraordinary opportunity that our modern times offer, through the affirmation of these rights, for more effectively recognizing human dignity and universally promoting it as a characteristic inscribed by God the Creator in his creature’ (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, §152). For the Church, human rights are firmly anchored in the innate dignity of each person, created in the image and likeness of God. As such, human rights must be defended. With rights come responsibilities.
- Use paragraphs 155, 156 and 157 of the compendium as a source of discussion of human rights and responsibilities. Paragraph 155 lists a number of rights as specified by Pope John Paul II in Centesimus Annus (published to mark the hundredth anniversary of the first social encyclical of the modern Church). You could explore these rights and identify examples of such rights being violated in our world today.
- You could also explore the human responsibilities and duties that correspond to those rights. How are those duties being carried out? What is our personal responsibility?
Symbols and images
The persistence of the widow is at the heart of this gospel passage. Despite her lack of status, she constantly raises her voice in pleading for what she needs, and finally her need is met. So too will God hear the cry of those who call on him. Sometimes, however, God may not answer our prayer in the way we want!
Living the Word
Practical ideas for group leaders to employ in connecting Scripture and daily life, with suggestions for music and environment
- In what ways does your community recognise and promote the rights and duties of all members? Are the members of your community familiar with the social teaching of the Church? Does your community provide a forum to explore these teachings? Is there a social justice group to which catechumens could be invited?
- Use the open Scriptures as a focus for your prayer. Pray for all people who suffer injustice and loss of human dignity. Pray for each other for strength on the journey. A suitable song could be ‘The Lord hears the cry of the poor’ (GA 36). Conclude with the prayer of blessing in the RCIA at §97I.