The point of the Gospel (Luke 18:1-8) for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time is obviously Jesus encouraging our persistence in prayer. But there is an incredible irony in the story that Jesus tells.
You see, the women in that society, during the time of Jesus, had no legal rights of their own. They had rights only under the legal rights granted to their father or their husband. They could not testify in court. They could not even speak in public venues. This was not a society in which everyone was entitled to their day in court. And since this poor widow had no legal rights of her own, she most certainly would not have had access to the judge in a formal procedure of law. So in this parable, the woman could have only cried out to the judge in an unofficial, out of court manner.
The mistake that many people make in reading this story is to miss that subtle irony that Jesus uses. The woman was effectively silenced by the very makeup of their legal system. The coldhearted dishonest judge was not obligated to make any response to her request. But he eventually does so, because of her constant badgering. This message of the story is not an encouragement to bombard our Heavenly Father with our never ending list of “to do’s” in order to force Him to respond, just as the poor widow forced the dishonest judge to eventually respond. No! Of course not! That assumption would violate the fundamental message of Sacred Scripture. Our prayer life is meant to consist of our keeping a constant dialogue with our Lord. That means that we don’t make any decision in life without discussing it with Him first. In other words, if this heartless dishonest judge can be moved to act on the widow’s behalf simply because of her persistence, how much more will your loving Heavenly Father be eager and willing to hear the prayers of His children.
But I still don’t think that the speed in which our prayers are answered is the main point of this story. I say that because of the very last line in the Gospel. Jesus ended the parable by saying, “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?” As I read the text, that sentence just screams for attention. The Gospel text begins by saying that “Jesus told his disciples a story about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.” The point of the story is to remind us to pray without ceasing. We are to live our life in constant communion with our Lord. God is love; and He wants only the best for His children. Jesus even emphasizes His point by saying, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.” If this coldhearted judge will respond, don’t you believe that your loving Heavenly Father will hear the cries of His own children who call out to Him day and night? Like Jesus says, “Do you really think that He will be slow in answering them?”
To walk by faith means that we are to live our life in constant communion with our Lord and God. We are to “pray always, without becoming weary”. I believe that Jesus’ closing remark, “Will He find any faith on earth”, is meant to be a sad lament, because He knows the heart of man. True faith is found not in the legal observance of a strict set of rules and laws. But rather, true faith is found in the trust that the children of God have in the gracious love of their Heavenly Father.
“Will He find any faith on earth?” That is a profoundly serious question. But it is not a question that demands an answer from the “Church” because we, as an individual, cannot answer it by speaking for others. We can only speak for ourselves. And in responding to that question, we have to ask ourselves, do I truly see myself as a child of God? Do I live my life in constant communion with my Lord? Do I pray always and not become weary? Do I truly believe that my prayers are heard and speedily answered? Those are serious questions that cannot be easily answered. But life is a journey in which we learn to live by faith and not by sight. And my prayer for all of us is – “knowing that faith is a gift, I pray that the Lord will lead us, and guide us, and strengthen each and every one of us with the gifts of His most Holy Spirit, to enable us to live by faith and not by sight, knowing that we are all beloved children of God.” In Jesus most precious name I pray.