Luke 18:1-8, 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
…the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
–As kingfishers catch fire
Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ
Hopkins in this beautiful poem reminds us of how a just man must act. It is God’s grace that he receives and which manifests itself in his everyday activities. One who is constantly aware of how his or her life is filled with the abundance of God’s grace is led towards acts of kindness and justice.
In Luke’s Gospel today, we encounter the contrasting circumstances of the widow and the judge. The widow in the Bible is seen as one of the most vulnerable members of society and all are exhorted to help her. Among the orphans and other disenfranchised individuals, she is accorded special attention and assistance. In the parable she repeatedly asks the judge to render a just decision to her case. The judge, on the other hand, is characterized as not particularly God-fearing and not concerned of his fellow human beings. Despite his indifference to her pleas, he finally gives her justice because of her persistence. He may have thought that not acceding to her repeated request may harm his own well-being.
Jesus invites us to reflect on the fact that the unscrupulous judge is forced to render justice to the widow because her constant presence before him inconveniences him and tarnishes his public image. This is so unlike the way God responds to those who call on him unceasingly. Isn’t it that God will lovingly and promptly answer their call? He responds to us not because he feels forced to do so but because he is eager to oblige. His justice is not conditioned by what people may think or feel about him but by his overflowing love for us, his chosen people.
We are exhorted by Paul in the second reading to be faithful. Jesus also ends his parable asking whether faith can be found on earth. Knowing that God readily answers our pleas with justice, is there room for us to doubt? Can we indulge in our unbelief? While the Lord is eager to encounter us, he never forces himself upon us. He is present when we call. Thus we meet him full of hope and courage. As Paul says, we have to be “persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient”. The widow shows us that we have nothing to lose but much to gain by our persistence. It may have been inconvenient for her to constantly approach the judge. It must have taken all her courage and resolve not to give up when the judge seemed unmoved and disinclined to listen to her. Her insistence was rewarded in the end. How much more should we keep faith in our God, knowing that he is always listening and ready to the answer us.
Lastly, we are blessed by a God who is just and merciful and as we look around, we are invited to be his face of justice and mercy to others. We find the widow of the parable in many of our brothers and sisters who are seeking for justice and who are seeking for mercy. Can we be the just man who justices, who keeps grace in keeping all his goings graces among those who find life burdensome?