Judge and the Widows
Peter: Look Jesus, this is ridiculous!... We’ve already used
twelve pairs of sandals in announcing that things are heading for a
change, and that justice and liberation are at hand. But what have we
accomplished up to now, huh? Tell me.
Jesus: Be patient, fellas.
Peter: Yeah, be patient... You’ve gotta open your eyes, Moreno!
This is getting us nowhere. It’s like moving a mountain.
Jesus: And it will move, Peter. The moment we really have faith
in the Lord and in ourselves, we shall indeed move mountains and cast
them into the sea. I learned this lesson from my mother...
Jesus: When I was a little boy in Nazareth, my mother, who was
already a widow, worked on the farm of the landlord, Ananias...
Susana: What a rascal this Ananias is! How I wish this millstone
would crush his kidneys!
Rebecca: For three weeks we have been gathering olives for him,
and yet, he doesn’t want to pay us! No, this can’t be! I swear, by the
trumpets of Jericho that the whole world will know of his brazenness,
and this old man will have to pay us to the last centavo, or else...!
Michal: ...Or else, what, Rebecca?... No, woman, save your strength.
What can we do if he doesn’t pay us? Nothing! If our husbands were alive,
they would defend us... But, what can we do? We’re widows. Take the
yoke upon us and work like beasts.
Jesus: My mother Mary and her neighbor, Susana, together with
the other widows of Nazareth, had not been paid their wages after harvesting
olives from Ananias’ farm. They were furious, for this happened many
times: the patrons took advantage of the single women, who were hired
to gather olives, or tomatoes or figs... They got paid very little or
nothing at all for the work...
Mary: We’ve gotta do something about this, neighbors! We can’t
go on like this, doing nothing, while our children go hungry!
Michal: Is there anything we can do “Comadre”?*
This is the fate of poor people like us, so let’s just accept it!
Mary: What fate are you talking about? No Michal! I don’t buy
that. Do you know what Joseph, my late husband, used to say? May he
rest in peace! He said that our destiny is in our own hands.
Susana: That’s right, Mary, but we women are weak, don’t forget
Mary: How can you say that, Susanna? Wasn’t it Judith’s hand
that cut off the head of that giant whose name I don’t even remember?
When the men of Israel lost courage, who led the people against the
attacks of the Canaanites? It was Deborah, a woman like you and me,
in whose veins flowed blood and not water! And wasn’t Queen Esther a
Rebecca: Mary’s right. The trouble is, the woman, for being alone,
loses heart and end up hiding in a cave like mice do.
Mary: Well, then, let’s get out of this cave and punish the
Susana: Yes, sir, we’ve gotta do something for our sake, and
for our children!
Mary: C’mon, let’s all go to Cana and file a complaint against
that old swindler. What are judges for, but to give justice, right?
Let’s see the judge right away, so he can take up our case in court.
Jesus: My mother and the other widows left Nazareth and headed
north toward Cana where old Jacinth, the bald and fat judge, lived...
Rebecca: Judge Jacinth, Judge Jacinth!... Judge Jacinth!
Jacinth: What’s going on here? Dammit! Who are you?
Susana: We are the poor widows from Nazareth! We’re here to tell
you something!.... Please open the door!
Jacinth: Some poor widows... What do you want? Why do you bang
Mary: Because we were deprived of our three-week wages after
having worked under the sun!
Rebecca: You’re a judge, aren’t you? Aren’t judges supposed to
Jacinth: We put troublemakers like you in jail. I’m very busy
now, so please stop bothering me.
Mary: Sir, please wait, don’t go away. You see, this old leech
Ananias, whom you know better than we do, hired us to gather olives
for him. A week passed, but he didn’t pay us. The second week and the
third week came, but nothing. Do you think this is fair?
Jacinth: So what do you want now?
Susana: We want to sue him in court and we’d like you to give
Jacinth: Well, let’s start from the beginning: If I defend you
in court... how much are you going to pay me?
Michal: How’s that again, Judge?... Please speak more clearly...
we come from the barrio, you know...
Jacinth: I say, if I take up your case, how much money are you
going to pay me, dammit?
Mary: Well, sir, as you can see, we’re all widows... poor widows,
at that. Besides, how can we pay you if Ananias doesn’t pay us yet?
Jacinth: I understand... In that case... come back next time...
I’m very busy today... That’s right, come back next week... I’ll see
what I can do for you...
Jesus: So, from Cana, my mother and her neighbors walked seven
miles back to Nazareth... After a week...
Susana: Please give us justice, sir!... Judge Jacinth, please!
Rebecca: We’ll pay you something from what Ananias will have to
give us, if you defend our cause!
Jacinth: Something... something... How much?... Tell me, how much are you paying
we can collect ten dinars... or even fifteen... from all of us...
Jacinth: Dammit, fifteen dinars! I’ll be damned! You’re paying me fifteen dinars!
You’ve come to ask me to confront the most powerful man around, who,
by the snap of his finger can have me hanged... and in return, you’re
paying me fifteen filthy dinars! Puah!
understand, sir, that we’re only poor...
Jacinth: Of course, I understand... and you too, must understand that I’ve
got much work to do, and I can’t attend to you... Ehem... That’s it,
come back next week and we’ll see, ha, ha, ha...
Jesus: Seven miles of journey back to Nazareth. After a week,
they again traveled seven miles to Cana...
sir, until when shall we keep on coming back?...
Rebecca: Our children are skin and bones already!
these breasts of mine, Judge! They’ve dried up! We’re all desperate!
We can’t stand this anymore. Our children are dying of hunger, and they’re
Jacinth: What have I gotta do with that, huh? I didn’t give birth
to those kids! So, why bother me? Why don’t you settle this among yourselves?
Go away and stop pestering me!
Mary: Fine, don’t do it for our sake, if you don’t want to.
Jacinth: And for whose sake, may I ask?
Mary: Do it for the love of God, Judge!
Jacinth: Ha, ha, ha...! For God? What do I care about God?...
He’s up there in heaven, while I’m down here on earth. Didn’t you say
that God gives justice to the poor? Why don’t you go get yourselves
a long ladder so you can reach him and ask his help? And stop bothering
Susana: Pff... What a sour character he is...
Mary: No, Susana, it’s just that the fox in Ananias has gotten
to him, do you understand?
Michal: What’ll we do now, Mary? We’re doomed.
Mary: Now, we’ll keep fighting!
Rebecca: But Mary, are you out of your mind? How can we fight
without even a stick as a weapon!
Mary: We don’t need sticks or swords for this, Rebecca.
Rebecca: So what do we do, Mary?
Mary: All we need is patience.
Mary: To put an end to his patience. Remember what Moses did
in Egypt? The Pharaoh had everything, including war chariots! Moses
had nothing. Well, the only thing he had was a stubborn head... Moses
gathered all the Israelites and tested the Pharaoh’s patience: by turning
the water red, infesting the houses with toads and frogs, and turning
the city into total darkness...
Susana: But Mary, we’re just a handful... Moses did it because
he was a man and many people rallied behind him...
Michal: We’re just like mosquitoes, while they’re like elephants...
Mary: That’s precisely the point, Michal. That was one of the
ten plagues of Egypt, that of the mosquitoes. This I can assure you:
a band of attacking mosquitoes can render sleepless all of King Solomon’s
elephants in the palace. Come with me; we’re all going back to Jacinth’s
Jesus: And so, the obstinate peasants, together with Mary, my
mother who was their leader, went back to the front door of the fat
Jacinth: You’re here again! Dammit, I told you to go away and
leave me in peace!... Are you all deaf?... What are you waiting for?
Mary: We’re waiting for the judges of Israel to give justice
to the poor!
Jacinth: Well, you’ve got to do it sitting down, because it will
take a long time!
Mary: That’s exactly what we’re going to do. Neighbors, let’s
all sit down!
Jesus: When my mother said that, all the widows sat at the front
door of the judge...
Jacinth: To hell with all of you! Okay, you may stay there, until
your asses get numb! Damn you, peasants; your heads are as hard as stones!
Jesus: The judge slammed the door. After a while....
Jacinth: You’re still seated there? By Jove, have you all lost
Susana: No, it’s you who’s losing your patience, Judge!
Mary: We won’t move from here until we get some justice...
Jesus: Then the judge shut the door again...
Rebecca: You’ll bring your house down if you keep on banging the
Susana: Pff... What do you think, Mary? Will we achieve anything?
Mary: Our ancestors suffered for four hundred years in Egypt,
until finally they obtained their freedom. We won’t budge from here.
Man: Hey, who’re
you? Are you begging alms from the judge?
Rebecca: We want justice, not alms.
Susana: We labored for three weeks gathering olives at Ananias’
farm, and now he doesn’t want to pay us.
Man: What a thief!... What about the judge... Has he done
Mary: That’s what we’ve been waiting for. But you see, Ananias
has stained the judge’s hand, who in turn, has smeared the captain’s,
and so on and so forth...
Man: Yeah, you’re right. The powerful protect one another,
while we keep on pushing each other... Hey, fellas, come on over here,
all of you!
Jesus: That man started to call his friends who were idle in
the square and inside the tavern... Soon, a great number of people from
Cana joined the widows from Nazareth...
Jacinth: Well I’ll be damned! What do you want? I’m not the governor
of Galilee, neither am I here to give you candies or sweets! So all
of you: get lost and leave me in peace, you fools!
Jesus: More and more people joined them at the front door. They
were like a plague of mosquitoes...
Jacinth: That’s enough! To hell with all of you! Come inside and
let’s settle this matter once and for all!
the judge finally relented, huh?
Jacinth: I couldn’t stand the scandal anymore. However, I want you to bear
this in mind: I’m doing this, not for God’s sake, not for you nor for
your “starving children”, but because I want to get rid of you and get
you out of my sight.
Jesus: Judge Jacinth took the case to court and the landlord
Ananias had to pay the widows’ wages. Yes sir, they won the fight! That’s
how all wars are won: you fight until the end. It’s the same thing with
the Lord. We pray day and night, without ceasing. If we do, He’ll never
let us down. He’ll give us justice!
Rufa: God bless your lips, Jesus, and God bless the woman who
brought you into this world!
Peter: Very well said, Grandma Rufa!
Jesus: Yeah, even more, God bless all those who fight to the
end, whatever the cost!
In many ways, the women peasants of Israel had more freedom
than those in the city. The need to raise a family caused them to work
side by side with the men on the farm. The women and men harvested the
grapes together; sometimes the women were hired to work alone.
Being a widow in the Bible should never be taken as synonymous
to being old. Many girls got married at the ages of twelve or thirteen
years, and a lot of women became widowed at a very young age. Considering
that when Jesus initiated his activities in Galilee, his father had
already passed away, Mary was widowed at thirty or forty. Her social
condition made her dependent on her son, whose duty it was to support
her. Likewise, she certainly had to work. The parable of the “evil judge”
or that of the “persevering widow” in this episode is told by Jesus
to his friends as a real experience of his mother and some widows like
The administration of justice in Israel traces
its origin from the people’s history, with the ancestors designated
by Moses. However, in Jesus’ time, there were no exact data as to how
justice was meted out, and the manner by which the cases were presented
in court. The institutionalization of justice varied according to regions.
Mary and her friends went to look for a local judge, who was residing
in Cana, since Nazareth was too small a locality to have one. These
judges decided less important cases in small localities. Sometimes,
the rich would “buy” them off with gifts and so no real justice was
delivered in their decisions.
The prophets of Israel always fought for
justice for the poor. They identified God’s law with the rights of the
poor. Among the poor were the foreigners, the orphans and the widows,
who were defenseless and therefore, deserved justice more than anyone
else. The prophets denounced the corruption in the courts, the briberies
received by the judges and the injustice they committed against these
unfortunate souls (Amos 5:7-13).
In the history of Israel, a lot of women
became known for their active part in the peoples’ struggle. Deborah,
the judge of Israel, won several battles (Judges 4 and 5); Esther, a
very popular heroine, and Judith, who defeated the tyrant Holofernes
were significant female figures in the history of Israel for their courage
and cunning. Mary, Jesus’ mother, likewise left a mark in the history
of Israel by helping establish the Kingdom through her work, her constant
fidelity and her courage in the face of adversity.
Mary, the mother of the people, a peasant
and a laborer, ought to serve as inspiration to women. There is so much
in common between her and the women of our society. Mary lived in a
male chauvinistic society. She engaged in manual work, and experienced
the suffering of the poor: scarcity, insecurity and discrimination.
She had a son whose commitment to the cause of justice put her own life
in jeopardy. Without fully comprehending Jesus’ mission, she collaborated
It is not enough that Mary is venerated.
She is even “adored” – which, in fact, is what has happened. In the
Magnificat, a hymn of faith in the Lord and a source of inspiration
and hope for the poor, can be found all the elements necessary for a
genuine veneration of Mary.
Like any child learning from his parents,
Jesus learned the fundamental values in life from Joseph and Mary. He
acquired Mary’s tenacity, her constancy, that typical peasant obstinacy
that can “move mountains.” If the parable of the “evil judge” has been
commonly regarded as an exhortation to the constancy of prayer, Jesus,
in this episode, broadens its meaning: in prayer, we must also be as
consistent, patient and insistent as Mary. Prayer and action go hand
in hand; they are nurtured by the same spirit, and inspired by the same
attitudes. Thus, Jesus presents Mary as a model of constancy of action.
There will be no freedom for women until
men and women alike take part, hand in hand, in the construction of
a world that is different from the present: a world that is free from
discrimination of any type. Women’s liberation that focuses only on
the sexual aspects (abortion, divorce, free union, etc.) is an importation
from developed countries which has little to do with our own realities.
In this account, the widows’ strategy to
win the sentiment of the unjust judge was tenacity, in the form of non-violence.
They insisted, they journeyed several times, pressured the judge with
their words and screams, and staged a sit-down strike... until they
overcame the judge’s resistance... Their unity gave them strength and
from the book: A Certain Jesus, Vol. 2 (Chapter
Copyright @ 1998 by Claretian Publications,
This book offers a
new approach to appreciating the life of Jesus. The first part of the
Chapter is in dialogue form in an up-to-date conversational language.
This makes the reader realize that Jesus was once a very ordinary guy,
a typical man in his time. The last part of each chapter contains an
explanation of the biblical references, thus giving one the perspective