his parables Jesus disturbed the comfortable and comforted the disturbed.
Parables are stories that would seem to point to an obvious conclusion,
but then jolt us by an unexpected ending. In the parable of the Good
Samaritan the priest and the levite were the obvious people to help
the man who was left half-dead by robbers. However, it was not them
but the despised Samaritan who did the caring thing. We would expect
the good Jesus to associate with good people and shun sinners, but
instead, we find him associating with and including sinners. Through
parables, Jesus upsets us by challenging conventional wisdom. He so
upset the leadership of his time by his stories that they eventually
had to eliminate him through crucifixion.
parable in today’s gospel is particularly intriguing as it is
itself capable of being turned upside-down. It is introduced as a
parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. It
tells about an unjust judge who had neither fear of God nor respect
for people. In the same town there was a widow who kept on coming
to him 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 people, but since she keeps
on pestering me I must give this widow her just rights, or she will
persist in coming and worrying me to death.”
normal interpretation is to say that as the unjust judge heard the
widow because of her persistence, and not because of the merits of
her case, so too God will hear us if we persist in our requests. We
find a strong endorsement in the story for our novenas and our prayers
of repeated petition.
seminary scripture professor pointed out a few difficulties with this
interpretation. Is it not a bit strange to identify God with the unjust
judge: to identify God with someone who has no concern for justice?
Is it not strange to promote an understanding that petition is answered
because of nagging God into action without any concern for the content
of the petition itself? Is it not true that in the Old Testament,
and in the Bible in general, God identifies frequently with the widow
and the orphan? So, he would have us turn the parable upside-down
and interpret it in this way.
ourselves are the unjust judge who neither fear God or respect people.
We are dominated by our egos and generally looking for what is in
it for us. We are really stubborn in our self seeking. But God is
persistent in love for us. God is the hound of heaven who wears us
down, like the widow, by persistently pursuing us. Eventually, we
wield and let God enter our lives and guide us to do the right thing.
In this interpretation we see God as persistent in trying to break
down our defenses. We see prayer as allowing this pursuing God to
enter our lives and challenge us to change our self destructive behavior.
much prefer this second interpretation because I think it gives us
a better picture of who God is and of what prayer is. In this interpretation
God is the one who takes initiative. It is an example of what the
poet, Samuel Crossman, calls “Love to the loveless shown, That
they might lovely be.” The spiritual life begins with God’s
gracious gift. This gift often comes in strange wrappings. Sometimes
it comes in a sermon or a religious book. More often it comes through
a difficulty, failure, sickness or maybe a widow that comes to us
looking for help. The gift comes from a God who is humble, who knows
truth but who does not coerce us into accepting him or his gift.
pray continually then and to never lose heart is just to be in an
attitude of openness. It is having no predetermined demands to make
on God but to be continually ready, alert, and listening to the demands
that God may be making on us. Christian meditation is this kind of