Gospel Reflections

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Luke 18:1-8

Sunday Gospel Reflection by Sister Eileen Burns

Published: October 20, 2019

 When I began pondering this gospel of the widow and the judge a few months back, my reflections were heading in a very different direction. But the Spirit sent me spinning into a new way of looking at this parable as often happens.

One of my high school students from decades ago came to mind. Let’s call her Julia. She was an only child of a single parent and had only known a very hard life. Julia was born addicted to the heroin her mother used while pregnant with her. Julia had grown up knowing that her mother loved her, but she was not able to consistently trust her mom and rightly so. Julia was constantly testing me to see if she could get me angry to prove that my attempts to be loving couldn’t be trusted. I, too, grew in self-control and patience as her teacher. Maybe I also taught her some biology though I doubt if she remembers much of it now.

So what if the point of Jesus' parable is not that God is like an unjust judge whom we have to persuade to do the right thing when things go wrong? What if the real question is whether we are like Julia. What if we keep testing God when things go wrong to see if God really is a good as St. Julie assured us God is? Jesus says be persistent like the widow and know that we are God's chosen ones. But who is this God who is "not slow to answer us?" How did God love Jesus? It did not mean all was easy for Jesus even though he persisted in prayer. Jesus not only warned us but modelled that we must each take up our crosses and carry them as part of the process that leads to being raised up, to being resurrected. Paul tells us that we were baptized into the life and death of Jesus and that we have already been raised up with him.

We probably all have had someone like this widow who has persisted in calling us to be more loving, more just, genuine and trustworthy in our relationships. Yet this story also invites us to be honest about who God is for us.  Luke introduces this parable by saying Jesus wants the disciples to know "the necessity for them to pray always without growing weary." It is about staying in relationship with God. It is not about what to do if we think God is being unfair. It is about how we see God.

I admit that there is still some of the Julia in me that wants to test God and the genuineness of God's love for me, for us. Jesus gives us this story to remind us that even unjust people can be good. How much more the God who created us and dreamed us into being? Can we dare to believe that?


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