Jesus teaches disciples to rely on faith, work for justice

By: By Barbara Roedel

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Oct. 17

Exodus 17:8-13; Psalm 121:1-2,3-4,5-6,7-8; 2 Timothy 3:14 — 4:2; Luke 18:1-8

This Sunday’s Gospel portrays a widow who pursues a judge for justice. The image of a poor, powerless widow relentless in her pursuit of justice is contrasted by a judge who is arrogant and lacks compassion and fairness. He simply wants to be rid of her!

The judge ignores her — but the widow continues pounding on his door, day after day. She will not give up. She demands justice. Tired and weary, the judge finally gives the widow a just decision.

In Jesus’ day, widows were among the poorest and most vulnerable of society. A widow would not have had access to a judge nor would the judge have paid any attention to her demands. Annoyed, he would have dismissed and forgotten her.

Jesus told this parable to shock his listeners. It was the opposite of what his hearers expected. Parables never represent the status quo, but instead they reveal a world turned upside down. So for the widow in Jesus’ story to have the courage and persistence to pursue justice in the courts was shocking. Why should the judge listen to the widow who had no political clout or social standing?

Jesus continues to teach the disciples that God hears the poor who cry out to him day and night, that God will deliver justice speedily. Jesus worries whether his followers will grow weary of working for justice and lose their faith.

BE PERSISTENT IN ALL THINGS
This parable comes after the disciples have asked Jesus to increase their faith (Luke 17:5) and the healing of the 10 lepers (Luke 17:11-19). All three passages are talking about active faith. Jesus teaches his disciples and us to rely on our faith, to be grateful for our faith, and to use even the smallest of faith to work for justice and charity even if you lack power or influence. As disciples, Jesus calls us to persevere in prayer so we will not become discouraged and give up.

Working for justice can be extremely exhausting and frustrating. It feels fruitless at times. Many people condemn and ridicule those who devote their time and energy to work for justice by knocking on the doors of government officials demanding just laws and systems for all people. It takes faith, prayer, courage, fortitude, patience, perseverance and energy not to become weary and quit.

We need to wear down the unjust systems of today’s world through nonviolent actions. Be persistent to work for health care reform, to end abortion, to end poverty, to end the death penalty, to end racism. These are hard issues and it seems they are just too big to ever get solved. It’s very easy to become disheartened and indifferent. Apathy surrounds us.

But Jesus is trying to shock us out of our complacency and out of our prejudices. Jesus asks us to keep trying, to keep working for justice by relying on our faith and prayer. Only by repeatedly confronting injustice will our efforts be fruitful.

Our all-loving, caring and just God hears our prayers. Like the widow, be faithful in your prayers and persistent in your efforts for justice.

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BARBARA ROEDEL is the pastoral associate at St. Pius X Parish in Rock Island. Contact her at broedel@stpiusri.org.

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