These are dark days both at home and abroad. We are a nation divided and a world divided, with events rapidly spiraling out of control -- what with trade wars, the Turkish onslaught against the Kurds in Syria, the Impeachment process here in the U.S., or with Brexit in Europe .... Wherever we look, there is chaos, suffering and calamity, with the poor bearing the brunt of it. It is easy to feel powerless or depressed when we witness the magnitude of the world's problems or when we read about yet another hate crime or yet another mass shooting, or the advent of yet another hurricane. Truly, it seems that we are living in apocalyptic times with little "Good News" anywhere. The Sunday readings, however, provide us with the one answer that had made sense for millennia: thousands of years ago, Moses raised his hands in prayer and as long as his hands reached to the heavens, victory was with him and with his people; in the end, Joshua is victorious and "mows down "Amalek."
I'm no fan of violent battle scenes but for the Jews, "Amalek" symbolizes the face of evil. The Amalekites were the ancient enemy of Israel and not only appear in Ex 17, but also in
1 Samuel 30:1–2
2 Samuel 1:5–10
or commandments actually call for the extermination of the Amalekites (Dt 25:17-19). Joshua's victory over Amalek, therefore, is a classic archetypal victory of Good over Evil. Though Joshua slays the enemy with weapons, it is Moses' prayer that ultimately wins the battle.
May we rely on prayer at all times, but especially in times of chaos and uncertainty.
PS I would greatly appreciate your prayers for my sister, Patricia, who is seriously ill at the present time. Gracias!
"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?"
There are two characters in this parable --the unjust judge and the persistent widow. All we know about the judge is that he is a procrastinator who cares little about the consequences of his failure to pass judgment. He is neither motivated by love of God nor by love of neighbor, but does only what is convenient. Meanwhile, the widow keeps on showing up, demanding justice. Jesus never explains her circumstances but the fact that she is a widow suggests that she is poor, and her reference to an "adversary" suggests that someone has cheated her of resources that would make a difference to her economic situation. Perhaps she is fighting for rights to her house or to a field; or perhaps someone owes her money or has stolen her livestock. Whatever the case, the judge is aware of her increasing frustration and finally delivers justice because he fears she might become violent.
The implication, of course, is that Jesus' followers need to be as persistent in prayer as the widow: if an unjust judge can eventually be "bothered" into responding, surely a just God will be quick to reply?
The context is critical here. Luke 18 begins with the word.
This transitional word immediately follows Jesus' discussion of
The Day of the Son of Man
-- an apocalyptic account describing the horrors of the end of days which will surpass even the Flood of Noah's time or the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The disciples then ask,
No doubt they are confused and terrified, anxious for re-assurance. It is "then" that Jesus tells them the
Parable of the Persistent Widow
. Those who survive the time of Great Trial will be those who persist in prayer . Like the widow, they will continue "showing up, " regardless of what is happening around them; they will be single-minded just as the widow is focused on justice. Like Moses, they will raise their hands up to the heavens and, if they grow weary or discouraged, they will support each other, both spiritually and physically. God, in fact, welcomes the cries of those who call out in supplication, day and night; they are the "chosen ones" who rely on God rather than on their own efforts and who are humble enough to surrender to God in prayer.
As we survey the chaos in the world today,
The Parable of the Persistent Widow
provides us with direction: it is prayer not fear that is the answer.