Homily for 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2007
The protests in Burma recently have been impressive. These latest protests against the oppressive military rule have been led by the Buddhist monks. They follow the protests in 1988 and 1990. Burma is 80% Buddhist and there are 300,000 Buddhist monks there. It is said that their numbers are about the same as the Burmese military. Many of the Generals themselves are devout Buddhists. And they have used this identity as a Buddhist nation to undermine other religions such as Christianity. So it is no small thing for them to take on the monks who have described the regime as the enemy of the people.
Those protests do express that age old yearning of people everywhere to live free from oppression and not according to some one's ideology that is imposed from above. In a simple way the protest of the widow in the Gospel today is another example of it. In a humorous way it portrays a yearning for the justice of God; for God's reign to come.
Our story comes immediately after Jesus had responded to questions by the Pharisees about when the Kingdom of God was coming. He says it is not something that can be observed. He goes on to explain to his disciples that they need to be patient in waiting for the coming of the Son of Man. They should not be led astray by claims too soon that "There he is!"
It is in that context of patient waiting on God that Jesus tells the parable of the widow and the unjust judge. She is so persistent in her demands for justice that the judge fears she will give him a black eye! That is the literal sense of the expression used in the Greek text. Jesus uses a humorous story to drive home his point.
The story is not telling us to demand selfishly what we want from God. That is incompatible with the love that is his commandment. Nor is it saying that God will be worn down by our persistence. God's love and compassion is consistent. Rather, the heart of Christian prayer is always, as we say in the Lord's prayer, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." In fact it is to disown our own needs that we express them in our prayer and submit ourselves and our needs to God.
If a widow can find justice because of her constant pleading, wearing the judge down; if a judge, who by his own admission is not a devout Jew, can relent in his unwillingness to help; how much more will God, who is nothing at all like the unjust judge, whose very being is love, how much more should we be confident that God hears us and knows what we need.
It is in the waiting and the hoping that the issue rests. We await the Kingdom of God to come as we pray daily in the Lord's prayer. "Thy Kingdom come." That is our status: We wait for justice. We wait for healing. We wait for the resurrection of all our hopes. The persistence in prayer that Jesus urges on us is a constancy in faith that underpins all that we are and do and say. He is not asking us to say endless prayers day and night. He is not asking us to drop everything and go into the desert where we can pray all day undisturbed.
His challenge is will there be faith on earth when he comes again? Will we have remained faithful in prayer or not? Will we endure to the end as the Burmese people seem to be, not counting the cost?