Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, 'Grant me justice against my opponent.' For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, 'Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'" And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"
To teach his followers the need for perseverance in prayer and the effectiveness of such perseverance, Jesus told his disciples the parable of today’s gospel. There are many devout Christians who are deeply puzzled by what they think is God’s indifference to their fervent pleas for spiritual favours, which to them appear essential in their journey heavenwards.
These people would readily admit that God has good reason for not granting temporal favours – they might not be for their eternal good. Why refuse or delay granting their spiritual needs? The man or woman who is follower of Christ still suffers from human weakness. He or she is attracted to worldly things, is finding humility and obedience very difficult, suffers from dryness in prayer or worse still is scrupulous to a degree that makes life almost unbearable. Such people could work so much better for God and for their neighbour if only God would remove these weaknesses which, in fact, he could so easily do.
Or again why should whole nations of devout Christians suffer persecution from atheistic tyrants? See their children brought up deprived of the right to practice their faith, or, worse still, taught to despise it? Surely God should answer the prayers of these good people and the fervent prayers of millions of their fellow Christians on their behalf.
These and many similar questionings arise in our minds because our limited human intellects can see but one small section of the immense tapestry which God is weaving for the human race. We would all like immediate results in our own tiny corner of that tapestry while the all-wise God is occupied with the whole picture. He is not forgetting us either. If he delays in answering our urgent appeals, we can be certain that the reason is not that he wants to punish us, but rather to help us. There are many saints in heaven who would perhaps never have become saints if God had not allowed them to struggle on longer than they would have wished, against trials and difficulties – spiritual as well as physical.
Jesus teaches us, in this parable, the need for perseverance in prayer. This perseverance develops our trust and confidence in God. It helps us to become humble and to realize how weak we are when left to ourselves. It keeps us close to God. As we learn how dependent we are on his generosity. If we only would realized that God is perhaps never closer to us than when we think he is forgetting us. The trials of life, spiritual or temporal, which he allows us to suffer are not obstacles to our spiritual progress but rather stepping stones without which we could not cross the rivers of life at all.
God wants every one of us in heaven but just as no two men on earth have the same identical features, so also no two men on earth have the same road to lead them to heaven. God is supervising the journey of each one of us. He is ever there to help if the obstacle on one’s road is insurmountable. We may and we must keep asking God for the spiritual and temporal favours which we feel we need. We must never grow despondent or feel that God has lost interest in us, if he delays in granting these favours. When we shall look back on our earthly journey from the happy vantage point of heaven, we shall see how effectively and how lovingly /god regulated our journey. When he did not grant a certain favour it was because he had a much more important one to give us, one we did not ask for or even realized we needed. Amen.