Jesus tells this parable to encourage all those who have lost heart and are tempted to give up on praying. We can remember his promise: for everyone who knocks the door will be open, everyone who searches will find, everyone who asks will be answered. We remember the promise but we wonder if it was meant for us. We can remember knocking til our knuckles were bare, asking til we were hoarse, we remember searching in vain and we wonder what’s going on here. Today’s gospel encourages us not to give up. If an unfeeling, unjust judge will give way to the unrelenting demands of a widow, a non person, how much more will God listen to the prayers of those he has embraced as his cherished sons and daughters.
I don’t know whether or not you saw the movie ‘Water’. It’s the story of a seven or eight year old girl who was married to an older man. It was an event she didn’t even remember. She was still living with her parents but she’d been promised to this man, probably for a fee. The man died and the young girl legally became a widow and her impoverished parents took her and left her at a residence for widows. The movie tells of her life in this residence and exposes the blight of widows in modern India. The movie couldn’t be made in India; it was too much of an embarrassment.
In the time of Jesus it was pretty much the same situation for widows. I read somewhere that the word widow in Hebrew means ‘silent one’. A widow was a voiceless person, unable to speak on her own behalf. In the patriarchal society only males could play a public role, women, especially widows had no voice at all. Having no male member in her family to speak on her behalf she had to find her own voice and from our reading it appears she did. She must have been a very feisty person. She badgered this judge day after day. This brash ‘voiceless’ woman would not be intimidated by the unjust judge. She embarrassed him daily as she pleaded her cause for justice and finally he gave in: ‘I will grant her justice she that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’
Jesus offers this widow as an example to all of us to pray always and never lose heart. At the same time we can see her as a model to us of a person who raised her voice to demand justice and who did not cease til justice was served. So often when we hear of the social issues of our city, our country or of the world itself we throw up our hands and say, ‘what can I do, it’s beyond me.’ What can I do about Darfur, what can I do about Iraq or Afghanistan or Somalia, what can I do about the blight of the men, women and children of our First Nations living in the squalor of the Reserves? Jesus chose the example of a voiceless, powerless woman, a widow whose social status had nothing to recommend her, as an example to all of us of our ability to make a difference. For this voiceless woman quitting was not an option.
But how many good people feel voiceless? They have no power, no influence when it comes to dealing with the social issues around them. But there is a voice we all have, it’s called a vote.
We have an important election coming up in our city. In choosing a candidate we have to consider a candidates reputation for honesty and integrity. In choosing a candidate we can wonder if they sense they have an entitlement to the office they’ve held so long. In choosing a candidate we should find out where they stand of such important issues as affordable housing, the homeless, the street people, the unemployed and the environment. By our vote we can give voice to the importance of these issues. By our vote we can see that justice is done to the voiceless.
The election is a week tomorrow. I think as citizens and as Christians we have the obligation to vote. Using the voiceless widow as our example we can our voice be heard by our vote. As the saying goes, vote as you like but vote.