Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time (José Antonio Pagola)

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Do we continue to believe in Justice?

Luke relates a brief parable, indicating to us that Jesus recounted it to explain to his disciples “the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.”  This topic is dear to the evangelist who, on several occasions, repeats the same idea.  Naturally, the parable has been read almost always as an invitation to take care to persevere in praying to God.

But if we look at the content of the account and at Jesus’ own conclusion, we see that the key to the parable is the thirst for justice.  The expression “rendering justice” or “securing rights” is repeated up to four times.  More than a model prayer, the widow of the account is an admirable example of the fight for justice in a corrupt society that abuses those who are the weakest.

The first character of the parable is a judge who neither fears God nor respects any human being.  He is the accurate personification of the corruption that the prophets repeatedly denounce:  the powerful are not afraid of God’s judgment and do not respect the dignity and the rights of the poor.  They are not isolated cases.  The prophets denounce the corruption of the judicial system in Israel and the chauvinistic structure of that patriarchal society.

The second character is a helpless widow in an unjust society.  For one thing, she lives suffering the cruel abuses of an “adversary” who is more powerful than her.  For another, she is a victim of  a judge who does not care at all about her and her suffering.  That is how millions of women of all times live in most communities.

At the end of the parable, Jesus does not speak about prayer.  First of all, he asks for trust in God’s righteousness:  “Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night?”  These chosen ones are not “the members of the Church,” but rather the poor everywhere who cry out asking for justice.  Theirs is the kingdom of God.

Afterwards, Jesus asks a question which is nothing but a challenge to his disciples:  “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”  He is not thinking of faith as adherence to doctrine, but of the faith that animates the behavior of the widow, model of indignation, active resistance and courage to demand justice from those who are corrupt.

Is this the faith and prayer of Christians who are satisfied with the well-being and comfort society fosters?  Surely, J.B. Metz is right when he denounces that in Christian spirituality there is too much chanting and too few cries of indignation, too much complacency and too little longing back for a world fit for human beings, too much comfort and too little hunger for justice.

José Antonio Pagola

October 20, 2013
29 Ordinary Time (C)
Luke 18, 1-8

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