20 October 2013 – Twenty-ninth Sunday In Ordinary Time


Luke 18:1 – 8

Jesus told his disciples a parable
about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.
He said, “There was a judge in a certain town
who neither feared God nor respected any human being.
And a widow in that town used to come to him and say,
‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’
For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought,
‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being,
because this widow keeps bothering me
I shall deliver a just decision for her
lest she finally come and strike me.'”
The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.
Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones
who call out to him day and night?
Will he be slow to answer them?
I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.
But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”


“Shifting Standards”

As Catholic Christian men and women, on what principals do we base our beliefs and actions? Do we know where they come from? If they are truly rooted in God and therefore valued by His Church, what happens when we grow weary of upholding them? What happens when it becomes difficult to do so? Do we toss them out for plastic or trendy mushy principals? If so, our beliefs will be merely reflections of our broken neediness instead of foundations established by God. We will lack the spiritual persistence of the bold widow in today’s Gospel passage.

Although, in these spiritually murky decades, sands are shifting, the unchanging and life-giving standards of Christ cannot and will not shift. And those who will refuse to be blown around in the sandstorm will find a deep, holy satisfaction in being firmly rooted in Christ. The widow in today’s Gospel passage is one such woman. She is indicative of a person with a healthy and firmly established foundation. Notice how, even though she is unwavering in her goodness, her justice and her persistence, it is obvious that she has also been wounded by her own earthly trauma. First, we recognize that death of a loved one has impacted her life. She’s a widow. Then, she finds herself dealing with a dishonest and corrupt judge. Who knows what other hardships she has faced? But it is her being rooted in the Truth which sustains her; it is her persistence with a right cause which permits her to prevail through the murky muck and shifting sands.

Jesus is not shy to point out the dishonesty which accompanies shifting sands of the world. Jesus uses the description, “dishonest judge,” (Luke 18:6) in today’s Gospel. Recall a similar description a few Sundays ago, the “dishonest steward” (Luke 1:8). The Lord is not swayed by dishonesty; He is not thrown off course by its pervasiveness. Jesus acknowledges its unfortunate presence and then challenges the faithful with how to contend with dishonesty. It swirls around us and attempts to carry us off in its disorientation and its destruction.

A popular, secular “super star,” Billy Joel, sings of honesty: “it’s such a lonely word,” and “it’s hardly ever heard.” Not that this contemporary celebrity is a banner for honesty and truth, for in another song Billy shouts out, “you Catholic girls start much too late” But in this case, the ballad about honesty accurately laments the absence of it and the consequent bi-product of dishonesty, namely, hardness of heart.

Since there is so much dishonesty, the Lord must be intending to use it for redemptive purposes. The same holds true for suffering. Since there is so much of it, there must be redemptive potential in bearing it. The dishonest steward which St. Luke included earlier in his Gospel is there as a challenge to all the faithful people to please be as skillful building the Kingdom of Light as dishonest people are in building a different kingdom. So too, the strong widow in today’s passage challenges the faithful with the necessity to be unwavering in the truth, persistent and firmly rooted while the sand storm of dishonesty shifts dunes and even levels them in the modern deserts of spirituality.