Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 16, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Ex 17:8-13 / Ps 121 / 2 Tm 3:14-4:2 / Lk 18:1-8
by Rev. Mr. Barry Welch, Guest Homilist
Something that I learned this week I found pretty interesting: That is, from a really early age, some studies say that, as early as three years old, children exhibit an understanding and a sense of fairness, of justice. At the age of three! They’re barely able to walk and talk, and yet they understand fairness.
How many have heard this: “That’s not fair!” “He got more ice cream that I got!” [Invites those watching the livestream to post comments about what’s not fair.] It’s not fair that both Virginia Tech and UVA have horrible football teams at the same time. ONE should be good, right?
Here’s a secret also, because just a few years later, at the age of around eight, children begin to understand something that many of us, if not all of us, in this room already know all too well: Life’s not fair. At the age of eight, just five years after they figured out fairness and justice, they’re learning that life isn’t fair.
And when has life ever been fair? Throughout all of history, pride and power and politics, war, wealth, sickness, accidents, natural disasters, school, work, play, taxes, death. Life isn’t fair. It’s just not.
But we learn, we adapt. We deal with it, but sometimes this unfairness, this lack of justice just builds up and beats us down. It seeds discouragement; we lose heart. We become weary. It’s just not fair.
In this parable that we hear from Jesus, He talks about this judge. This is not a good guy. This judge is about as far away from fairness and goodness as you can get. We hear from Jesus that we’re supposed to love God with everything we’ve got and love our neighbor as ourself. And yet, this judge even repeats himself, “I do not fear God nor respect any human being.” He’s pretty much the opposite of good and just. He’s only out for himself. He’s corrupt. He couldn’t care less about justice. If someone of influence or means, or had a good bribe, or someone who’s a friend, or a friend of a friend, someone that could do him a favor, that’s where his decision is going to be swayed. That isn’t fair.
What about this widow that we hear about? Jesus chose this character of a widow very carefully and wisely, because a widow in that society was about the lowest status that you could possibly be. With the loss of her husband, she had zero status. In fact, all of the inheritance that was owned by her husband would have been claimed by his family. If there were children involved, they would have to go to court, and we just heard about the judge. In that society, life is completely and totally against a widow. In fact, she shouldn’t really even be speaking to a civil authority. She isn’t worthy enough in that society for that. Talk about unfair. That isn’t fair.
So what’s the point? This is an unusual situation with parables that Jesus gives, because Jesus tells us what the point of the parable is before He tells us the story of the parable. He told us that it is about the necessity to pray always, without becoming weary.
We can get confused about this parable. Jesus isn’t saying that if we nag God long enough, hard enough, often enough, we’ll eventually get Him to do exactly what we want Him to do. No way.
He’s contrasting God with this judge. He’s talking about how God is different. If an unrighteous and unjust judge with limited power would give in to persistent petitions, how much more so would a righteous judge and just judge with limitless power hear the cries of those who call to Him?
The point, Jesus is telling us, is to pray always and not get weary. But Jesus is also teaching us something that goes a little deeper. Typical Jesus. There’s something a little bit deeper: Life’s not fair, and it never will be until Jesus, the just judge, returns. Jesus, Son of the Creator, who came to be with us and one with us. He lived, suffered, died, and rose, and He ascended, justifying us for our salvation, even though we aren’t worthy of that. He cleared the path for us to live with Him in love eternally, and He promised He would come again in glory. He promised, and He will do it. That’s the point.
All of our prayer, like the widow, our relentless prayer and petitions, in spite of discouragement, in spite of weariness, in spite of setbacks and trials and burdens in our life, the prayer of the chosen ones is to bring us justice, to bring us to the world that is to come. To bring us to the kingdom that is to come, forever and ever. That’s the prayer that will come speedily and when we least expect it. That’s the prayer we long for. That’s the prayer we want to pray for incessantly. That’s the point.
That’s not to say that we don’t want to pray for a cure to cancer, or world peace, or to be appreciated and loved, or health for ourselves and for our family members and for our loved ones, strength and wisdom to our leaders, and a good parking spot at the mall. Of course, we want to pray for these things, and of course our loving God hears these prayers.
But the point of this story, this parable, is an eschatological one. That means it’s of the kingdom to come. It’s for life everlasting. It’s for a just God bringing about a just end and a just life everlasting, just as He promised. That’s the point.
But…When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?