As they come down to us,
today's readings are about persistence.
The Exodus reading and the passage from Luke's gospel
give us messages about persistence in prayer,
and the letter to Timothy
gives us advice about persistence in preaching.
Those were good messages for the people they were written for,
and they still contain good messages for us.
But now take a look at the part of the gospel
that's printed in bold type in your bulletin.
Scripture scholars point out that that part goes back to Jesus,
and the rest of today's passage—
the narrative framework and the lessons about prayer—
those are Luke's application for his community.
What was Jesus' message when he told that parable?
Let's take a look at the three actors
and what their roles are.
There's the widow,
and the person she's suing in court,
and the judge.
Given the culture of the time,
what do we know about the law
that would give a widow grounds for complaint in court?
If she has no children and her deceased husband had a brother,
the law required him to marry her
and raise up descendants in his brother's name.
Or if she did have a son,
the law required the first-born to care for her
until he was 30 years old.
That brings us to the defendant.
It could be her husband's brother, who won't marry her,
or her own son, who won't care for her.
Either way, without a judgment in her favor,
she has no means of support.
She's oppressed by laws and systems,
perceived as useless in society and culture,
unprofitable, forgettable, and lost.
Without family, she is dead to the world, a beggar on the streets.
So she goes to court.
The judge is corrupt, maybe taking bribes
from the husband's brother or the widow's son.
Jesus describes him as fearing no one... not people, not God.
He's totally self-centered.
He considers giving the widow justice—her right—
only because she keeps coming back
and he's afraid of getting worn out—
in the Greek, literally getting a black eye.
He's afraid his reputation will suffer
because people will hear her complaints
and judge him for not following the law,
for his corruption.
Jesus' listeners would have put themselves in the story, but where?
They would want to be law-abiding,
so they wouldn't see themselves as the defendant in the case.
They would want to be honest and faithful,
so they wouldn't see themselves as the corrupt judge.
They lived in oppression and too often found themselves
caught up in systems and practices
that reduced them to poverty and powerlessness.
They would want justice.
They would see themselves
as the one who insists on righteousness—as the widow.
The widow is the one who is on the right side of the law.
She is the poor one whose cry God hears,
the lowly one who God raises up.
We, as believers in God—
however we manage to think about that Gracious Mystery—
and as followers of the Way of Jesus,
are called stand with the widows of our world,
and there are many.
As American citizens, we're called to listen to the poor
crying for food and clothing and shelter,
clean water, adequate health care, a living wage,
fair taxes, just laws, peaceful neighborhoods.
We can't ignore them.
As our second reading tells us,
we must act whether it is convenient or inconvenient.
We must convince, reprimand, and encourage.
That is our vocation as people baptized and sent
to carry out the mission of Christ in the world.
I'm inspired when I look around our little community
and see the justice you work for,
here and around the world.
Sunday afternoon I saw some of you
standing on the corner of Bancroft and Secor
waving peace signs.
Monday I took another carload of your contributions
to help refugees settle in Toledo.
Then over to Claver House,
with all those much-needed bags and containers,
along with enough butternut squash to feed an army!
Whenever we gather for our monthly community meeting,
you eagerly vote to give generous contributions
to charities doing good works,
like Beach House and 1Matters and Padua Center.
I see you at gatherings for justice and peace and the environment,
read your letters in the Blade,
watch you register voters.
I hear you struggling your way
through the rip tide of this year's political campaigns,
sifting through the candidates and issues
looking for the best choice for the common good.
And through it all, grounding and sustaining your lives,
I see your everyday ministering
to family and friends and neighbors,
reaching out, helping out,
spreading joy, standing by in sorrow,
and you will keep on going, and going, and going …
until justice reigns in our world.
Your goodness, your works of justice,
give me faith that, as Julian of Norwich wrote,
all shall be well… all manner of thing shall be well.
Thanks be to God!
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue (Washington Church)
Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006