212. Never Losing Heart (Luke 18:1-8)
“For he who will reward us on judgment day for our works and alms will even in this life listen mercifully to those who come to him in prayer combined with good works.” – St. Cyprian of Carthage
Luke 18:1-8: Then he told them a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. ‘There was a judge in a certain town’ he said ‘who had neither fear of God nor respect for man. In the same town there was a widow who kept on coming to him and saying, I want justice from you against my enemy! For a long time he refused, but at last he said to himself, Maybe I have neither fear of God nor respect for man, but since she keeps pestering me I must give this widow her just rights, or she will persist in coming and worry me to death.’ And the Lord said ‘You notice what the unjust judge has to say? Now will not God see justice done to his chosen who cry to him day and night even when he delays to help them? I promise you, he will see justice done to them, and done speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?’
Christ the Lord The judge in the parable, although an unworthy fellow, has real authority. He can issue a decision that will have actual repercussions both for the widow and for her adversary. Christ also has real authority – “all authority in heaven and earth,” as a matter of fact (Matthew 28:18). He is able to influence our lives and history, and he has chosen to put this influence at our disposal. Just as the judge would not have given the widow a fair decision if she had not pleaded with him to do so, God also has decided to make his graces depend (at least in part) upon our initiative. “Ask, and it will be given to you,” our Lord pointed out earlier (Luke 11:9); “Search and you will find…” It seems that Christ refuses to be a dictator, but delights in being a generous and responsive King.
Christ the Teacher Jesus is politely telling us that we are weak petitioners. He probably detected impatience behind the Pharisees’ question about when the Kingdom would come, an impatience we too are familiar with. We give up too easily; we approach God with less confidence than this determined widow had in approaching a crooked judge. We doubt God. We think that just because he doesn’t answer us in the way we expect him to, he isn’t answering us at all. That shows a lack of faith, a truncated vision of God. No prayer that we utter goes unheard. God is never out of his office; he’s never on vacation. He is longing for us to bombard him with our prayers. He is eagerly searching for hearts that trust him enough to ask him unceasingly for everything they need. He always answers our prayers, even when the answer is “no.”
On judgment day, one of our greatest regrets will be how little we prayed – prayer costs us nothing and can be done anywhere and any time; it’s an investment that simply can’t go wrong, and yet we relegate it to a few minutes here and there. It’s like refusing to turn on the lights because we’re afraid they might not work, or because we have become oddly attached to the dark.
Christ the Friend In Jesus’ last sentence, we detect a tinge of sadness. It is a rhetorical question: when he comes again, will he find any faith? Will he find anyone who recognizes him and is glad to welcome him? He certainly hopes so. He wants to be able to grant us the intense joy of eternal life, but he knows that not everyone will accept the gift, and it pains him.
Jesus: Love is always a risk. I risked it when I came to find you and invite you to follow me in my Kingdom. I knew that in order to offer myself in friendship, I had to become vulnerable; it had to be possible for you to reject me. Look at me hanging from the cross. Look at my side, pierced to my heart with the soldier’s lance. This is what love risks; this is love’s vulnerability. I am willing to take the risk, because I long for your friendship; I long for you to follow me, day after day. If you accept my invitation, you will have nothing to fear. When it comes to friendship with me, the vulnerability only goes in one direction: you may hurt me by preferring your own will and being unfaithful to me, but I will never be unfaithful to you.
Christ in My Life Thank you for the gift of prayer, Lord. Thank you for giving me a share in your work, for not doing it all yourself. Now my life can have eternal repercussions as you want it to. Dear Lord, teach me to use my freedom well. I don’t want to live at the mercy of passing fancies or stock market fluctuations. I want to live grounded in you, grounded in your love and truth…
Teach me to pray, Lord. My faith is so weak. Teach me to pray at all times, to never tire of conversing with you about everything. Help me to develop the habit of lifting my heart and mind to you in the midst of a meeting, a traffic jam, or a chore. Help me to confide in you with all my heart, as you want me to, so that you can work through me to bring many souls into your Kingdom…
I believe in you, Lord. I have put my hopes in you. I love you, though my love is weak and scrawny. If thousands ignore you, I at least want to stay close to you. Guide me, lead me along the path of your wisdom and your peace, and make me a channel of your grace…
PS: This is just one of 303 units of Fr. John’s fantastic book The Better Part. To learn more about The Better Part or to purchase in print, Kindle or iPhone editions, click here. Also, please help us get these resources to people who do not have the funds or ability to acquire them by clicking here.
Art: Parable of the Unjust Judge, artist not listed in the Granovitaya Palata (Palace of Facets [Moscow Kremlin, Russia), 1881-2, PD-US author’s life plus 70 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.
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