17 October 2010 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Exodus 17, 8-13; Psalm 121; Tim 3:14 – 4:2; Luke 18, 1-18
You have two characters in the Parable of the Corrupt Judge and the Widow. The judge is completely unscrupulous. He is neither guided by divine or human law: to him, he is the law. The widow on the other hand is just asking for what she truly deserves as her right. Jewish law from Deuteronomy (24, 17-22) tell us that the widow is one of the special and helpless citizens of their society that has to be given priority.
The judge however refuses to act. He may have several reasons for being so. He may be lazy. He may have looked down on her status and thought that she is not worth his attention.
Finally, he is moved to act on her behalf and do her justice because he is afraid of the consequences of her persistence.
In the Gospel, the point of the parable is a contrast that Jesus makes. If a corrupt and insensitive judge will act after persistent requests, will not God answer our persistent prayers?
This then is the topic of the Gospels and the readings. It is a parable about persistent prayer, like the parable of the man who wakes up his friend in the middle of the night (Luke 11, 5-8). The parable encourages us to pray. It comforts us in our lives when it is easier to give up after waiting for so long for God to answer our prayer. It tells us: keep praying. Don’t lose heart!
The attitude of prayer is that of Moses in the first reading: one who outstretches one’s hands during the battle of the Israelites against the Amalekites. When we pray we stretch out our arms to the Lord.
The gesture of stretching our hands in prayer is a gesture of vulnerability. We become open to the elements: our hearts and our vital organs are exposed. In prayer, we put our lives on the table and allow God to guide us. We say in the Our Father, “Your will be done.” Not my will, but God’s. We are not to twist God in the arm. But we let God do what’s best for us. Whether our request is granted or not, it will be responded to.
When Jesus prayed at the Garden of Gethsemane, hoping that His Father would lift Him from suffering, the answer He got was a “no.” Jesus prayed: “If you will, take this cup away from me.” But the “no” from God was for the best: if He had given in to His Son’s request, we would not have been saved and God’s plan of salvation would have been thwarted.
Think again of the battle scene in Exodus: as Joshua and his men were engaged in battle, Aaron and Hur supported Moses’ hands, one on one side and the other on the other hand, so that the hands remained steady till sunset.
This I think is a good image on a Sunday: all of us come to the Lord with great needs. When we come to Sunday to worship with our community, we can think this way: that we are both Moses who prays for victory and/or Aaron & Hur who supports him as he persists in prayer.
In the bigger picture, the battle scene is life itself. We can find ourselves also in battle every single day. And we also find those who love us, praying on top of the hill for us, every single day until sunset. They are our support systems: to me, that is my mother.
Either we take find ourselves in the situation of Joshua or the place of Moses, we pray again and again and again until forever.
Sometimes I realize the point is not so much the result of prayer: but prayer itself. In prayer, we have God. So whether the outcome of Moses’ prayer was victory or defeat, to be with God is the reward itself.
However, Scripture tells us that Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword! That to me tells me that when we persistently prayer, the result will always be victory.