HOMILY: 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Luke18:1-8)
October 16, 2022
The point of today’s parable is very clear. Luke tells us what it is right at the beginning: it is to pray always and not grow weary—it is to persevere in prayer.
The widow in the parable depends completely on every bit of support she can get. Women in those days were not employed but were totally dependent on their husbands, or in the case of a widow, on some other man. The widow in the parable is probably being cheated out of what she should get for her daily living. So she keeps coming back to this unscrupulous judge, who couldn’t care less about her, but finally decides in her favor just to get rid of her. He is even afraid she might get violent. “I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.” The word for “strike me” really means “give me a black eye.”
Then Jesus says: Did you hear what that judge said? If such a scoundrel of a judge will act in favor of that widow—and here is the main thrust of the parable—how much more will your good Father in heaven act in favor of you, God’s beloved sons and daughters! Yes, our Father in heaven will surely respond to his people’s prayers.
Well, to be sure, we may not get just what we are asking for or just when we ask for it. But Jesus assures us that God hears our prayers and responds in a way that is for our good. Persevering in prayer means always having a heart open to the Lord, always ready to ask, always ready to receive. It doesn’t mean reciting prayers or continually repeating “Lord, have mercy.” It means knowing that you are in God’s arms, that you are held close to his heart. As the responsorial psalm says: “He is beside you at your right hand.” Yes, he loves you and wants only the best for you. Even if you are in some physical or psychological pain, know that he is there with you. You need only to surrender yourself completely into his hands, as Jesus did while dying in agony on the cross, saying “Father, into your hands I surrender everything.”
The final verse of the gospel directs our attention to the Lord’s second coming. “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” When the history of this world comes to an end—or when our own private history comes to an end at our death—will we have faith? Will we be open to the Lord? And often enough that means being open to the people around us, through whom the Lord takes care of us—our family and friends, our medical personnel, the people who provide our food and our facilities. I think we can say that having faith means being open to the presence of the Lord at every moment of our life. Isn’t that what Jesus means when he asks if there will be faith when he comes to us? In this way he challenges us to reflect on whether we are always open to receive him.
Before ending, I would like to suggest one more way of looking at what the widow shows us. It is a persevering struggle against the unsympathetic or corrupt forces in society. Sometimes we may need to “give them a black eye” in order to get them to act justly and equitably, not to favor the rich over the poor, not to shut out migrants and refugees. “Whatever you do for one of these, you do for me,” the Lord said.
By Fr. Robert Chiesa SJ