October 16, 2016 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause
October 16, 2016
Fr. George Smiga
What a peculiar parable Jesus presents us today in the gospel. A widow keeps going to a judge in order to secure a verdict, but he is unwilling to grant it. But because she keeps coming and wears him down, he gives her what she wants. What is the meaning of this parable, and, more importantly, how does it apply to our lives?
It all depends on how you interpret the characters in the story. Usually we see the widow as good and simply seeking what is right. This is a logical interpretation because the scriptures are full of devout widows who seek God’s will. But not all widows are the same. And this parable gives us no information about this particular widow or the validity of her cause. Therefore, it is possible for us to imagine that what the widow is seeking in the parable is not justice but retaliation. Her request to the judge, which in our translation is: “Render a just decision for me against my adversary,” can just as easily be translated: “Render vengeance for me against my adversary.” From this perspective the widow is asking the judge to help her get even and punish someone she does not like. The judge knows that this is wrong. For a long time he holds out against her request. But over time she wears him down and he gives her what she wants.
How does this parable apply to us? We are to see ourselves as the judge. We are people who try to do what is right and avoid what is evil. But we also know that people and circumstances can wear us down until we give in. Why do we give in? Here the parable is very helpful, for it tells us that this judge neither feared God nor had respect for any human. So here is a judge trying to do the right thing on his own without the help of others. This parable tells us that trying to do the right thing alone is dangerous. If we do not call upon the help of God and others, it is likely that life will wear us down and we will throw in the towel.
We know that we should be patient with others. But our pre-school children have so much energy and so many demands that they wear us down and in time we explode. We know that we have a responsibility for our aging parents, but their needs multiply time and again, and we begin to wonder whether we can carry the burden. This parable tells us that we cannot be patient people on our own. We need to reach out to God and to others. We need to say to our spouse, “Speak to me. I’ve been living in a four-year old world too long. I need adult conversation.” We need to say to a friend, “Take me to lunch. I need a break from the responsibilities I bear.”
In a larger sense, we know how many things are wrong with our world and should be changed. We understand the effects of poverty, drugs, and crime. But if we attempt to correct these things on our own, it is likely that we will become exhausted. That is why we depend upon the help of others. That is why we have community. This is a particularly fitting truth today as we celebrate our patronal feast. We exist as a parish community so that together we can make a difference. This is why our parish embraces programs of charity and advocacy so that we can join with others and attempt to improve our society.
It is difficult to do the right thing. If we try to do what is right on our own, we, like the judge in the parable, will likely be worn out. But if we call upon the help of God and others, we are more likely to become patient, generous, and just people—disciples who do not grow tired of building the kingdom of God.