November 12, 2016
by Edward Morse
Creighton University's School of Law
click here for photo and information about the writer

Memorial of Saint Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr
Lectionary: 496

3 John 5-8
Psalms 112:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
Luke 18:1-8
Praying Ordinary Time

Today’s readings convey a call to faithfulness.  The first reading reminds us that faithful stewardship requires hospitality and a commitment to share in the Lord’s work.  While we often think of missionaries as those who share their faith with others, we share our faith by supporting that work. We become co-workers, transforming our particular work into something more impactful than even our own private devotion; mundane work becomes the work of God.

Sharing not only transforms the gift, but it also transforms the giver.  Sharing support, hospitality, and prayer potentially changes our habits and dispositions into those reflected in today’s Psalm.  The just, merciful, and generous man bears the image of God in his faithful life. 

Ironically, the unjust judge in Luke’s gospel cares nothing about generosity or justice.  He cares only about his personal wellbeing!  Whether out of weariness from being bothered or a fear of being “struck”, he still finds the path to deliver justice.  In doing so, he has to judge against the widow’s adversary.  This presents a curiosity, doesn’t it?  We don’t know much about the adversary, but surely he was more formidable than this widow in his capacity to strike!  (A stealthy, ninja widow seems unlikely!)  The public context of judging probably had something to do with this outcome.  Even habitually unjust people recognize the need to do right when they are under the spotlight. 

Luke’s gospel conveys a contrast that is supposed to help us in our prayer. God is the antithesis of the unjust judge, who will surely do right for us.  But maybe the widow offers another insight here, which we might overlook.  Perhaps she knew the unjust judge well enough -- his flaws, shortcomings and all -- to realize that her persistent efforts would not be in vain.  Is that knowledge – and her faith in acting on it -- an important dimension to this lesson about prayer? 

This call to faithfulness may put us into an uncomfortable position by raising some challenging questions.  Like the widow, we sometimes cry out to God for justice and deliverance from our adversaries and yet seem to go home unsatisfied.  Do we know God well enough to trust him to do justice, to be merciful, and to lovingly and generously respond to us?  Do we know enough about what justice looks like, particularly when it involves an adversary, to recognize it when it comes?  And could our struggle with perceived injustice somehow, in a deeper sense, become another means of participating in the work of God?

This is a stretch for us, to be sure.  But perhaps we are called to offer these things up to God and to wait patiently with Him while He works.  Recall that the gift can also change the giver, often in ways we do not understand.  That is our hope, even when it is uncomfortable and we are not at all good at this kind of giving or patient waiting.     

Lord, grant that we may be persistent in prayer, patient in listening for you and in seeking after you, and willing to join with you as co-workers in all that we do.  And please bring mercy with your justice, which we all desperately need.  Thanks be to God. 

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